INDIANAPOLIS —Quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr. spent several months last year prepping Florida State's Jameis Winston for the NFL Draft.
Meanwhile, he watched Marcus Mariota from afar.
Here at the NFL Combine on Thursday, Whitfield said he was impressed by Mariota's rookie season with the Titans, and thinks he's going to be a star in the league.
"He is going to be vicious,'' Whitfield said of Mariota. "Once he gets more experience where he can say "I've been in this scenario before, I've seen this defense before, I've beaten this team before … I think it is going to bode well for him.
"As far as setting him on the track and watching him go around the track for the first time, you can say he's going to be around for a while. And it's only going to be upward for him as they surround him with better players."
Whitfield, an analyst for ESPN, knows a thing or two about quarterbacks. In addition to Winston, he's also worked with quarterbacks like Cam Newton, Andrew Luck and Ben Roethlisberger in the past. Whitfield runs a quarterback training academy in California.
Mariota broke rookie records for most touchdowns (19), completions (230), passing yards (2,818) and passing attempts (370) in his first NFL season.
He also ran for 252 yards and two touchdowns on 34 attempts, including an 87-yard run for a touchdown against the Jaguars. He had three runs of 20-plus yards.
"I was impressed, but I was not surprised,'' Whitfield said of Mariota's rookie season. "He's talented, he's competitive. I knew that he would make it across the bridge in that transition from the (shotgun) to some of the more classic footwork that they do. And then ironically they've adapted some things for him. He has always been a home-run hitter type of player, he will never be a "game-manager' kind of player. He will always have the element of taking off and running for 70 yards, and sitting back and throwing it for 70 yards.
TitansOnline.com looks back at the 2015 rookie season of Titans QB Marcus Mariota. (AP Photos)
"And there's not a whole lot of guys in the league that can do that. He kind of reminds me of Cam in that way. And he always he had ownership of what he was doing. He never looked overwhelmed."
Whitfield believes Mariota will improve as he watches more film, which will help with his pre-snap reads. He'll also benefit from an offseason when he can get stronger, and more familiar with his teammates. Mariota's life was a whirlwind leading up to last year's NFL Draft after winning the Heisman Trophy at Oregon.
Whitfield is also familiar with new Titans offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie, who spent eight seasons with the Falcons before joining the Titans. Robiskie has previous experience as an offensive coordinator with the Browns and Raiders.
"I am very familiar with coach Robiskie,'' Whitfield said. "His temperament is good, and he's been around a lot of big-time players. But he's also a teacher. A lot of guys coach, and know where schematically things are supposed to go. But he conveys the idea. So I think he'll be a good match for Marcus both in temperament and in experience."