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TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Marcus McMaryion is getting another chance to start at quarterback for the Oregon State Beavers.CORVALLIS — Marcus McMaryion is a 3.8 student at Oregon State who recently switched his major from kinesiology to public health. He can see himself moving into a career as a physician’s assistant or chiropractor some day.


For now, though, McMaryion is doing his part to help OSU’s football team deal with its current health issues.

The 6-1, 205-pound sophomore will get his first start of the season at quarterback Saturday at Seattle against the unbeaten and fifth-ranked Washington Huskies.

“You dream about this kind of stuff when you’re a little kid,” McMaryion says. “I wanted to play nationally ranked teams. I wanted to play in big-time games.

“We have one right in front of us. I hope I can go out there and perform to the ability I know I have.”

A week ago, McMaryion was running with the third-string offense and wondering if and when an opportunity would arise. After injuries to starter Darell Garretson and backup Conor Blount in the Beavers’ 19-14 loss to Utah last Saturday, McMaryion is suddenly the starter.

“He’ll get into the moment,” OSU coach Gary Andersen says. “He knows it’s his team right now. He’ll be a leader. He’ll take care of his business and have high expectations of himself. He’s going to prepare like crazy, and we’ll do all we can to help him.”

McMaryion has learned in his 2 1/2 years in Corvallis to expect the unexpected.

“I don’t know if there’s another quarterback in the nation who has gone through the ups and downs that I’ve been through,” he says.

That may be overstating the situation, but it has been a bit of an elevator ride. McMaryion redshirted his first year, then playing sparingly until given his first career start as a redshirt freshman in Oregon State’s final game last season in the Civil War at Eugene. He performed well, completing 11 of 21 passes for 154 yards and running six yards for a touchdown as the Beavers made it interesting in a 52-42 loss to Oregon.

Going into training camp in August, McMaryion was the No. 2 quarterback behind Garretson. When it was time to replace Garretson at halftime of the Boise State game on Sept. 24, though, OSU coaches called on Blount, a true freshman and a walk-on.

“We saw some things we liked from Conor in camp, and he was doing some nice things in scout work,” OSU co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Kevin McGiven says. “We wanted to see how he responded.”

Blount responded well, leading the Beavers to a comeback that fell short against the Broncos. He held on to the No. 2 spot, with McMaryion riding the bench and manning the headset to the press box during games against Colorado and California. By all accounts, McMaryion took it like a pro.

That doesn’t mean it was easy.

“It was a tough one to swallow,” he says. “The coaches thought I had to work on something, or whatever it was. Not much you can do. You swallow your pride, put your head down and work even harder.”

The coaches have been impressed with the way McMaryion continued to work without pouting or complaints.

“He has been awesome,” Andersen says. “Marcus has been a true teammate. There have been times that have been very frustrating for him. I don’t always have all the answers. Marcus is a competitor. I’m sure he disagrees with some of the decisions we’ve made. I wouldn’t expect it to be any other way. But it hasn’t fazed him as far as being a teammate.”

“I’ve had to have conversations with him a couple of times,” McGiven says. “It has been a bit of a roller-coaster ride for him, but he has done a great job handling the situation. He comes to the meetings engaged.”

Against Utah, Garretson was lost for the season to a broken bone in his left foot, and shortly after that, Blount suffered a knee injury that is likely to end his season, too. That brought on McMaryion, who completed 5 of 9 passes for 76 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown to Hunter Jarmon, in the closing minutes.

“Marcus gave us a little spark at the end of the game,” McGiven says. “He made some nice reads. We’ve seen his capabilities in stretches when he has been in games.”

McMaryion, 20, is from Dinuba, located in central California near Fresno. He threw for 6,136 yards and 71 touchdowns over his final two prep seasons, leading Dinuba High to the Division III Valley Conference title as a senior. Ranked the nation’s No. 16 dual-threat QB by Rivals, he took visits to Boise State, Arizona and Fresno State before choosing the Beavers.

“It was the community and the family feel of the program — nothing like the other visits I went on,” says McMaryion, who carried a 3.98 GPA through high school. “You can feel it when coaches are sincere about recruiting you, if they actually care about you, your life outside of football. Coach (Mike) Riley is one of the most sincere guys I’ve ever met. The connection I developed right off the bat felt different than coaches at the other schools.

“I got the feeling here that it wasn’t just about winning, that they really cared about your character. They recruited real down-to-earth guys, not just football players. That’s what drew me here. After I came to for my visit, I shut it all down and said I’d found my home in Corvallis. I absolutely loved it here, and I still do.”

When Riley and his staff left for Nebraska and Andersen came onto the scene, McMaryion said it “crossed his mind” to transfer.

“But I felt like I was called here for a reason, to do something bigger outside of football,” he says. “That’s one of the reasons why I stuck it out, to see what would happen.”

When Garretson and Blount went down, what happened was a chance for McMaryion to show what he can do. Now that chance is expanded, with Garretson lost for the season and Blount looking that way, too.

“I’m sure Marcus sees this as his opportunity to have his team for a guaranteed six games moving forward,” Andersen says. “We’ll see where it goes, but I’ll take that guy on my team any time. Team guy, smart, great kid.”

McMaryion says he has felt support from his teammates.

“The team is 100 percent behind me,” he says. “A lot of the guys are excited to see what I can do when I get out on the field. The guys who are injured, we wish them a speedy recovery, but it’s next man up, man. We have to move on. We have a game to play this Saturday.

“The biggest thing for me is not to try to blow things out of proportion. I’ve been playing football my whole life. Go out there, have fun, enjoy myself and don’t stress. I’m sure things will work out.”

The backup quarterback against the Huskies will be Mason Moran, a 6-3, 185-pound scholarship true freshman from Chandler, Arizona, who has been running the scout team. OSU coaches were hoping to redshirt Moran. That still could happen if McMaryion were able to perform well and stay healthy the rest of the season.

“I wouldn’t say Mason is out of his redshirt,” McGiven says, “but he has to be ready to go. We told (the quarterbacks) a long time ago, regardless of where you are on the depth chart, you could be one, two, three plays away.”

Moran, who won’t turn 19 until Dec. 23, was the No. 6 recruit in the state of Arizona as a senior and was named the state Division I offensive player of the year and the nation’s No. 18 dual-threat QB by Rivals. He threw for 2,882 yards and 22 TDs and rushed for 672 yards and 11 scores as a senior, the latest from a Chandler High quarterback pipeline that includes Garretson, Brett Hundley of the Green Bay Packers and Bruce Perkins, a redshirt freshman at Arizona State.

“Things happen in football,” Moran says. “I’m prepared for whatever they want me to do. Marcus will be starting this week. If my time comes, it comes. If not, it doesn’t. But I’m preparing as if I’m going to play this week.”

The emergency quarterback against Washington will likely by Seth Collins, who started the first half of last season at QB as a true freshman before being moved to wide receiver this season. Collins will take some snaps this week during practice and probably be prepared to be part of a wildcat package.

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