Unheralded recruit Mariota leads Ducks 

November, 14, 2012
11/14/12
6:30
AM ET
In June 2010, a pair of overlooked quarterback recruits committed to the Oregon Ducks within three days of each other. Two years later, they have taken the college football world by storm.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Mariota
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireNo one has been able to catch Marcus Mariota and the Ducks this year.
In August, few outside of College Station, Texas, had heard of Johnny Manziel. Outside of Eugene, Ore., even fewer knew about Marcus Mariota. Now in November, Manziel is generating Heisman buzz after a historic upset of Alabama, while Mariota is piloting a Ducks squad that seems destined for the BCS title game.

Manziel and Mariota committed to the Ducks within days of attending Oregon's summer camp, but neither raised so much as an eyebrow. Instead, Ducks fans were more focused on Jerrard Randall, a quarterback rated No. 126 in the 2011 ESPN 150 from Florida who committed in mid-June. Randall was the No. 8 QB in the class, while Manziel was No. 39. Mariota? He was ranked 123rd and had only a Memphis offer before the Ducks came calling.

ESPN's National Director of Recruiting, Tom Luginbill, said in 2011 that Mariota was raw but had the potential to grow as a quarterback.

"He is the perfect example of the inexact science that evaluating 16-year-olds truly is," Luginbill said. "It can be easy to focus on the ESPN 150 or ESPN 300, but the reality is that players 301-1,000 are what make up most college rosters. They are the hardest to project and, in Mariota's case, even hard to find."

It’s hard to blame the scouts and coaches for missing Mariota. As a sophomore and junior, he had to fight for playing time with Jeremy Higgins, now a quarterback at Hawaii.

Mel Kiper's Big Board
Mel Kiper Jr. discusses his inaugural Big Board for the 2015 NFL draft.
VIDEO PLAYLIST video