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Marcus Mariota draws praise from Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt

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Last week, Tennessee Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said that "If (Marcus Mariota) comes to us at No. 2, he's definitely going to be the Day 1 starter."

The caveat with that statement, of course, is the "if."


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But there seems to be no question Whisenhunt is impressed by Mariota, who won the Heisman Trophy and guided Oregon to the national title game during the 2014 season.

"He does a lot of things that, no matter what offense you run, transition well to the NFL game," Whisenhunt told Sports Illustrated.

Whisenhunt was asked by SI about Mariota's football IQ.

"Very high," Whisenhunt answered. "I think he has very good spatial memory. You say, 'What's spatial memory?' He remembers plays. He remembers fronts. He remembers things in the short term and the long term.

"We're talking about an unbalanced set that USC ran against them three years ago. Like, 'Oh yeah, that was in this game at this time.' Those are the kind of things, to me, that are important for that position. You have to have a memory that can see everything and remember it because when it happens in a game, then you have to come over and communicate that on the sideline, then you have to have a plan of how you're gonna adjust to it. That's what the really successful ones do. So he exhibits that type of quality. We still have a little bit more classroom time with him, but he's been impressive."

Taking Mariota with the No. 2 overall pick -- assuming the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select Jameis Winston at No. 1 -- makes sense for the Titans. But so does bypassing him.

If the Titans think Mariota can be a franchise quarterback, they could take him. They also could take USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams, whom a lot of analysts think is the top player in the draft. The Titans also should have their choice of the top-flight edge rushers, too.

Whisenhunt's pronouncement about "if" the Titans take Mariota could be a lot of smoke. But his mini-scouting report rings true: Mariota does do a lot of things that transition well to the NFL. The question is for which team he will do them.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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