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Arizona football: Rich Rodriguez calls Oregon's Marcus Mariota Heisman front-runner

RichRod has not been mincing words on his feelings about Marcus Mariota.

Steve Dykes

Arizona Wildcats head coach Rich Rodriguez is no stranger to praising great players on other teams, so with the Oregon Ducks coming up on Thursday, it's time to hear his strong feelings about Marcus Mariota.

"I think Mariota's the Heisman front-runner in my opinion," Rodriguez said after practice Sunday night.

He backed that up with more on Monday. When asked if he would be surprised if Mariota didn't end up in the top-three in the Heisman voting this year, Rodriguez had one word:

"Shocked"

"Unless health-wise or something else happens, which you don't wish on any player, he's without question one of the top three football players in the country, and was last year."

"He's playing at an even higher level if that's possible right now."

Sports Illustrated published a long profile on Marcus Mariota a few weeks ago, and one of the big themes in the story was how quiet and unassuming of a leader Mariota is at Oregon. Which is sort of like Anu Solomon and his personality at Arizona. That same character trait made me wonder if RichRod sees any similarities between the two quarterbacks.

"They both kind of have a really good feel for the game," Rodriguez explained. "I think they both kind of have a knack for seeing the field and understanding their offenses. They're fun to watch, that's for sure."

But that's where the similarities end for coach.

"I mean Marcus is three inches taller, and twenty pounds heavier, and a couple tenths faster. Probably has a stronger arm."

"Anu's not quite there yet."

Thursday night's game will certainly be all about the quarterbacks, and it'll be fun to see just how Anu, Cayleb Jones, and some of the other first-year players react to the atmosphere that is a Thursday night at Autzen Stadium.