As a former head coach in the NFL, and as a UCLA coach who has faced Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota in the Pac-12, Jim Mora has a broad perspective on the new Heisman Trophy winner's pro potential. And Mora had nothing but effusive praise for Mariota on the subject Monday on "The Rich Eisen Show."
"I think he's going to be phenomenal. He has everything you're looking for to be a great NFL quarterback. He's big, he's fast, he's physical. He's incredibly smart. He makes great decisions. He's an amazing competitor," Mora told Eisen. "He's one of my favorite players of all time, and I've competed against him only twice but I've watched him a lot, and he's about as classy as a person as you'll ever find. He's the kind of guy you want representing your franchise. He has everything you want to be great at the next level."
Mora has been the head coach at UCLA throughout Mariota's three-year starting career, but has only faced him twice because the Ducks and Bruins did not play in 2012. Over two starts against Mora's defense since 2013, Mariota has completed 38 of 55 passes for 440 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, both Ducks wins.
Mora said Mariota not only has the arm to succeed in the NFL, but openly asked him to make the jump to the pros a year early.
"I've heard people sometimes question his arm strength maybe, (but) there's no doubt in my mind that he's got the arm to play at the next level. One of the things that I appreciate most is the type of sportsmanship he plays with," Mora added. "I mean, he doesn't talk any crap, he's all about the team. He's a winner. This guy is big time. ... He's going to be a great, great, great pro player. And, I want him out of the Pac-12. Go to the NFL, Marcus."
Earlier Monday, former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy compared Mariota to Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers. Mora stopped short of predicting Rodgers-level NFL success for Mariota, but indicated Mariota's physical tools for the game might be even better.
"He's bigger than Aaron. And he's more physical and faster than Aaron. But in terms of the type of person he is and the type of intelligence he plays the game with, accuracy he throws with, I would absolutely agree with that," Mora said. "But Marcus is a bigger, faster, stronger Aaron. Who knows if he's going to have Aaron's success at the next level because that guy's something else. I'd say that's a very good comparison -- their demeanor is very much the same; they're always in control during the game."
Mariota has yet to announce whether he will turn pro after the Ducks' postseason run through college football's four-team playoff against Florida State and, potentially, the winner of Alabama-Ohio State for the national championship. College underclassmen face a Jan. 15 deadline to file notice with the NFL of their intention to enter the draft, and if Oregon reaches the championship game, Mariota will play just three days prior (Jan. 12 in Dallas).
Mariota receives his undergraduate degree from UO this month.