Marcus Mariota has started the process of getting used to being under center as an NFL quarterback, and the Tennessee Titans liked what they saw on the field.
The Heisman Trophy winner and the No. 2 draft pick overall was happy to be back on the field during the first day of rookie minicamp on Friday. Taking some snaps under center is part of the process for the quarterback who played in the shotgun in college.
“I got to be under center for the first time, so that was different for me a little bit,” Mariota said. “It’s still football, and you’ve got to be able to execute whatever the coaches are asking you to.”
Mariota threw for 4,454 yards and 42 touchdowns while running for 770 yards and 15 TDs his last college season. Coach Ken Whisenhunt has promised the Titans are incorporating some of the spread offense that Mariota ran at Oregon into his scheme to make the QB’s transition as smooth as possible.
The rookie reported with the Titans’ other eight draft picks Monday. Mariota said he already is feeling comfortable in the offense and wants to continue learning.
“I’m working at it. I feel comfortable with it right now in practice that it went well,” Mariota said. “It’s just getting repetitions.”
After months of draft questions, workouts and waiting, the 6-foot-4, 222-pound quarterback was just happy being on a football field.
“I think for all of us here these last few months have been a really long process,” Mariota said.
Whisenhunt already likes what he’s seen up close.
The coach noted Mariota noticed that Dorial Green-Beckham, a large target at 6-5 and Tennessee’s second-round draft pick, wasn’t in on a planned throw to the post and called for the wide receiver to join the play. Unfortunately, Beckham was a bit anxious and jumped offside.
Still, there is a bit of a learning curve for Mariota handling the NFL huddle, getting out to the line of scrimmage and making his checks.
“There’s obviously parts of it that he is very comfortable with and other parts where it’s new to him,” Whisenhunt said. “So trying to blend all of those together and process all of that, it’s something that just takes time.”
Whisenhunt said it didn’t take long for Mariota to make an impression, even with the high expectations that come with being drafted No. 2 overall.
“He comes in with people having seen him play on Saturdays,” Whisenhunt said. “He won the Heisman. They’re curious to see what does he look like, and it doesn’t take long to understand that he’s a competent guy at that position. He can throw it, he can run when he has to run. He can do a lot of things. He has command in the huddle, and he does a good job with that.”
Mariota is the third quarterback the Titans have taken in the top 10 the past decade, and the other two — Vince Young and Jake Locker — already are retired from football. With their last playoff berth in 2008, the Titans need this quarterback to settle down a position where five have started over the past three seasons.
Zach Mettenberger, a sixth-round draft pick out of LSU last season, has made it clear he plans to compete for the starting job himself even though Mariota is expected to start Sept. 13 in the season opener at Tampa Bay against Jameis Winston, the top overall pick.
Whisenhunt hadn’t heard Mettenberger say he would fight to the death for the starting job, but the coach has no problem with it.
“That’s what you want him to say right?” Whisenhunt said. “You want him to be competitive.”
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