College Football's New Look

Stoops, however, complimented Ross' work during the offseason and spring practice.

"I paid my dues and waited my time," Ross said. "I felt like I needed time to get acclimated to everything around here."

Hopefully for the Sooners, Mixon doesn't have the same problem.

EUGENE, Ore. -- Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is 8 pounds heavier than last season, which is only natural for a 20-year-old who works his Ducktail off in the weight room. But to be honest, if Mariota came back as the physical specimen of the first eight games of last year, no one would argue.

The sprained left MCL that slowed Mariota down for the last five games took away his escapability and quickness. The injury took away his status as a Heisman front-runner, too. That's how good he had been in leading Oregon to the No. 3 ranking. Now that the redshirt junior has gone through spring practice and been even better, let's just say there's an air of confidence in Eugene.

"Knock on wood, he's right where you want him to be," coach Mark Helfrich said.

That means Mariota is healthy, a year older and a year more mature. At 6-foot-4, and now 218 pounds, Mariota's mere presence commands attention in a way it never has before. He is, by all acclaim, gentle by nature, which is not a quality that translates well onto the football field.

"It's still harder for me," Mariota said. "I've got to go through constant reminders. 'Hey, you gotta pick your voice up a little bit.' I think the biggest thing for me is my body language. Coach Helfrich is always in the back, saying, 'Body language. Body language.'"

Which means what?

"Just asserting more confidence," Mariota said. "Just portraying confidence. Coach Helfrich has been on me since I was a freshman. We've built a relationship where he expects more out of me and I really expect more out of me. I really hold myself up to that standard."

Helfrich said his quarterback is "doing a great job" as a leader. He reminds Helfrich of Andrew Walter, whom Helfrich coached at Arizona State a decade ago.

"Andrew was the same type of guy, introverted almost to a fault," Helfrich said. "Marcus is kind of the same way. With both guys, I made them say something to somebody after every play. It could be anything -- 'Nice shoes.' -- literally anything, just to make [him] comfortable."

By last season, Mariota began making impassioned speeches on the sideline. And look at Walter: After four seasons in the NFL, he is running as a Republican in Arizona's 9th Congressional District, which includes the Arizona State campus. Mariota is a prominent candidate in a different election. Heisman voters loved him last year until he got hurt. And Mariota is not hurt any longer.

STANFORD, Calif. -- David Shaw is the eternal optimist, and with a 34-7 record after three seasons at Stanford, why not? The Cardinal are redshirting good players, which means they are replacing experience with experience.

But Shaw rarely has been as over the moon about any position group as he is about his top four receivers.

"I'm trying not to make a bold statement about the receiving corps. But I couldn't be more excited," Shaw said.

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