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Titans coach says Mariota would start if team takes him at draft

If Marcus Mariota is the No. 2 overall pick, he would also be the No. 1 quarterback on the depth chart with the Tennessee Titans.

You’re talking about taking a quarterback with the first or second pick, you’re probably going to play that guy,” said Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt of the Oregon quarterback. “As far as whether or not he’s ready to do it, we’re still in the process of evaluating. We like what we’ve seen so far, he’s a talented player.”

NFLDraftScout.com ranks Mariota as the No. 2 quarterback in the 2015 draft behind Florida State’s Jameis Winston. The Titans don’t have a franchise quarterback in place, but have also spent significant time with Southern Cal defensive tackle in addition to working out Mariota and Winston.

The mild-mannered, passive demeanor of Mariota and his college football upbringing in a fast-break offense that didn’t develop certain skills vital to NFL success raised criticism from media and some in the scouting community. Whisenhunt, who has an obvious stake in hiking interest in the No. 2 pick, said he sees a pretty flawless player in evaluating Mariota.

“I’ve been very impressed with him,” Whisenhunt said. “I spent an hour and a half with him in the classroom and went out on the field and worked out with him.

“How he handled that whole situation, he did a really nice job. To me, he shows a lot of the qualities of those guys who have been successful in the league. The team gravitates to him, they really like him. He’s an accurate thrower, he doesn’t turn the ball over much and can extend the play.”

How the Titans handle the No. 2 pick and the draft overall could have a serious bearing on Whisenhunt’s future. Being the season for blowing smoke, Whisenhunt also had some praise for Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford — who happens to be under contract with the team coached by Mariota’s former college coach, Chip Kelly.

Kelly, of course, has said in recent weeks that the Eagles will not mortgage their future to go up and get a player in the draft.

The Titans could soon be on the block, and ownership changes are rarely positive news for the coaching and management regime in place. A winning season with a young quarterback might be the selling point Whisenhunt needs to stick around.

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