LOS ANGELES -- Despite an injured knee that limited his mobility, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota still racked up 715 yards rushing last season and found the end zone nine times on the ground.
He's a dual threat behind the center and his ability to take it to the house on the ground every play is a key reason why the Ducks' offense is so prolific. But despite the ability to run, Mariota knows that it will be his arm that ultimately gets him to the NFL -- and that's the area he's focusing on improving going into the 2014 season.
"The NFL is changing a little bit. The prototypical quarterback seems to be a little bit more mobile now," Mariota noted at Pac-12 Media Days. "At the same time, if you can't throw the ball with the best of them, then you won't get an opportunity. You have great assets if you're a dual-threat, but you still have to throw from the pocket and do all those types of things."
Mariota has worked hard throughout the spring and summer to improve his passing skills and make himself even more appealing to NFL scouts whenever he decides to leave Eugene. In addition to working on taking snaps under center, he attended the Manning Passing Academy this summer and has continued to drill down on improving his footwork.
In many ways he's a perfectionist, and while some see his 63-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio in college and come away impressed, Mariota only has the latter number in his mind as he goes about trying to improve each passing day.
"One of the best things in my day was watching that guy practice because he's phenomenal," Ducks coach Mark Helfrich said. "He cares more about practice rep 13 in period 12 of 7-on-7 than anybody I've ever been around."
Mariota has kept an eye on the changing nature of NFL quarterbacking over the years and understands how valuable his skills are in a world where Cam Newton can lead his team to the playoffs and Russell Wilson's timely runs can be a key to winning the Super Bowl. While he is understandably impressed with what those players can do on the field, he stopped short of offering any comparison to a current player because he's trying to forge his own path to the league.
"For me, a lot of people like to say Colin Kaepernick," said Mariota. "I don't really compare myself to anybody but just try to be the best I can be."