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  • COLLEGE FOOTBALL

    Ducks' Mariota carries low profile

  • Scott Frost knows what it's going to feel like to be in Marcus Mariota's shoes this season.
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  • Scott Frost knows what it's going to feel like to be in Marcus Mariota's shoes this season.
    Sixteen years ago, Frost escaped would-be tacklers and Tommie Frazier's formidable shadow at Nebraska by guiding the Cornhuskers to a 13-0 season and a share of the 1997 national championship.
    The spotlight on the quarterback from Wood River, Neb., was as intense as any fan or media pressure found in Columbus, Ohio, or Austin, Texas, or even in the suffocating SEC.
    "Being the quarterback at Nebraska is like, I don't know, being the president of the United States," Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said. "Or maybe a rock star or something. I'm not sure exactly what it is."
    Helfrich is certain Frost's experiences as a deeply scrutinized and successful college star will help the Ducks' first-year offensive coordinator get the most out of Mariota this season.
    "That can do nothing but help (Mariota) handle all the stuff, all the noise, all the outside influences that can certainly get in some people's heads," Helfrich said.
    Mariota became the first freshman quarterback to earn all-Pac-12 first-team honors last season after completing 68.5 percent of his passes while throwing for 2,677 yards and 32 touchdowns. The 6-foot-4 football wunderkind also rushed for 752 yards and five touchdowns during the Ducks' 12-1 season.
    For an encore, Mariota will try to lead No. 3 Oregon to a Pac-12 championship and another BCS title shot in 2013 while also trying to stiff-arm the inevitable Heisman Trophy hype.
    Frost, who became the first Nebraska quarterback to throw and rush for 1,000 yards in the same season, will be calling the plays and also serving as Mariota's position coach and mentor.
    "I think he needs to separate the distraction from what's important," Frost said. "But a second thing I really want him to do is own it. He's going to have a chance to do some special things this year.
    "I'm sure his name is going to be talked about for some special things, and we're going to have a chance to do some special things as a team. He's such a modest kid, sometimes he deflects that to the point where I'm not sure he's accepting it and owning it.
    "I want him to understand how good he can be and how good our offense can be when he's playing well. He's starting to do that."
    Coaches and teammates say the soft-spoken Mariota, who redshirted in 2011 before seizing the starting job a year ago, was more vocal throughout summer workouts and fall camp. His work ethic has always been second to none.
    "He's got kind of a calm, cool demeanor, and that's a huge asset for him to have," said former UO quarterback Nate Costa, who is working on Helfrich's staff as an offensive graduate assistant. "I think if there's someone who could handle all that media hype, it would be that type of guy."
    Heisman Pundit has Mariota at No. 2 in its preseason candidate watch for the most prestigious individual trophy in sports. Oregon's signal caller is behind Ohio State's Braxton Miller and ahead of Georgia's Aaron Murray, Alabama's AJ McCarron and Stanford's Kevin Hogan in the perceived pecking order.
    Chris Huston, the creator and publisher of the popular website writes: "(Mariota) should be even better in 2013, which means he's likely to have the kind of numbers we've come to expect from recent Heisman winners."
    Despite Chip Kelly's departure for the NFL, Duck players on both sides of the line of scrimmage say the offense has been as fast and forceful as ever during practices.
    Mariota, who threw for 2,597 yards with 32 touchdowns and only five interceptions as a senior at famed St. Louis High School in Honolulu, seems almost too good to be true.
    His parents, Tao Mariota and Alana Deppe-Mariota, probably aren't worried about their humble son showing up at fraternity parties or charging UO boosters for autographs at this stage of his career.
    "He's a one-in-a-million type of person," center Hroniss Grasu said. "It's crazy to see a guy like that as humble as he is. He has a tremendous family. His parents are just like that, great people.
    "I'm older than Marcus, but I definitely look up to him because of the way he carries himself."
    Whatever highs and lows the Ducks experience through the fall, the unflappable Mariota figures to remain the same. And his offensive coordinator will make sure he enjoys this ride.
    "(Frost) just tells me to take (the attention) with a grain of salt," Mariota said. "This whole thing kind of comes around only once. So enjoy it, but don't let it be a distraction. My family has done an awesome job. They've quieted the noise a little bit for me.
    "For me, it's just football. I get to go out there and play and do something I love to do. No matter where it takes me, I'm just going to continue to do the best I can and try to help my team."
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