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Ferd Lewis: Former Hawaii QB Cole McDonald made an impression on the Titans at the NFL Combine

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If the annual NFL Combine is a little like pro football’s version of speed dating, then Indianapolis is where quarterback Cole McDonald and the Tennessee Titans found some instant chemistry in February.

The kind that prompted the Titans to take the former University of Hawaii quarterback in the seventh round of Saturday’s NFL Draft with an eye toward the future.

“He (McDonald) was somebody that stood out for us at the combine and through our evaluations and our conversations,” Titans head coach Mike Vrabel said in a media conference call. “Our coaches were certainly intrigued by the player.”

Between initial and subsequent conversations, Titans’ general manager Jon Robinson told reporters, “We spent quite a bit of time with him (there) in the process, just getting to know him a little bit. Arthur (Smith, the offensive coordinator) and Pat (O’Hara, the quarterbacks coach) did and (they) developed a good relationship with him. (We) felt like, from a tools standpoint, he was a guy that we’d like to work with.”

Robinson said, “He’s a guy that’s got really good size, really good athleticism, ran fast, he moves around (and) he’s got good arm strength.”

Sort of like, well, somebody the Titans used to be hooked up with, Marcus Mariota, or his eventual replacement, Ryan Tannehill. A younger, more raw, largely untapped version the Titans say they hope to “mold.”

And, the attraction probably isn’t pure coincidence.

“They are very different personality-wise, but they are very similar in terms of athleticism and length,” said somebody who has worked with both, Craig Stutzmann, former UH quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator.

It was Stutzmann, now at Washington State, who introduced the two last year, putting them together in some joint film study sessions at UH.

“Even before I knew I was going to play for Hawaii, I idolized Marcus and his style of play, how he approached the game and what he brought to it,” McDonald said. “In terms of knowing Marcus, I have met him a couple of times, watching film with him here and there. He’s a great person to be around. He’s authentic. He’s real, always willing to help, regardless of who it is.”

McDonald said, “I saw some film with Marcus when he came back to Hawaii (in 2019). I was trying to pick up on everything he said and any pointers that he gave me. I was making sure to write those down.”

Stutzmann said he would sometimes talk to Mariota about how he handled certain situations or went about making adjustments with an eye toward applying it with McDonald and other UH quarterbacks. In addition, Stutzmann had a relationship with Matt LeFleur, the Titans’ offensive coordinator in 2018 and current head coach at Green Bay, and they would talk about Mariota and how he worked through issues.

McDonald said, “Growing up, there was always Marcus. And, once I got to Hawaii (I) was watching those greats before me, Colt Brennan, Bryant Moniz (and) Timmy Chang.”

He said, “In terms of players that I do admire that are in the league now, I have a bunch. But, for me, Marcus was that guy. Watching him (it) was exciting to see him go out there and light it up. To come to a place where he just left is pretty cool.”

The Titans apparently had the same thought.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@staradvertiser.com or 529-4820.


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