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Friendly Fire: DeForest Buckner Eager for Matchup against College Teammate Marcus Mariota

Posted Dec 14, 2017

High school rivals and former college teammates DeForest Buckner and Marcus Mariota will cross paths again in Week 15.


DeForest Buckner may have flashbacks of his high school football days on Sunday.

Rewind back to 2010 where Buckner, a four-star recruit at Punahou School in Honolulu, faced off against the Saint Louis School quarterback Marcus Mariota under the Hawaiian Friday night lights.

Less than two years later the former high school rivals joined forces more than 2,500 miles from their homes in Oahu at the University of Oregon.

Two bowl titles, a trip to the national championship and a Heisman Trophy later, Mariota would go on to be the Tennessee Titans No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. That following year, Buckner was selected by the San Francisco 49ers with the seventh-overall pick.

The pair of Hawaii natives will cross paths again on Sunday as the 49ers host the Titans in Week 15. It will mark their first time playing against each other in the NFL.

“In college, he would always be that highlight guy extending plays, getting out of the pocket,” Buckner said of his former teammate. “I see he’s doing a pretty good job in that aspect and growing as a quarterback.”

The Titans franchise QB has led Tennessee to an 8-5 record as the team aims to end a nine-year playoff drought.

Buckner has come into his own, already establishing himself as one of the NFL's more dominant interior defensive lineman in just his second season.

San Francisco grabbed its third win of the season in Week 14 over the Houston Texans and Buckner registered seven combined pressures, including two knockdowns and a sack.

Often a target of double teams, Buckner has still managed 48 tackles, three passes defended, 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble in 2017. While those numbers don’t jump off of the page, advanced metrics show that Buckner is still one of the most disruptive players in the NFL. According to Jeff Deeney of Pro Football Focus, Buckner ranks sixth among interior defenders with 43 pressures and first in quarterback hits with 17.

Sunday's matchup against Mariota will give Buckner a prime opportunity to build on his solid sophomore campaign. Buckner knows full well what Mariota is capable of as a dual-threat quarterback. Mariota's five rushing touchdowns this season are tied for the most of any NFL QB.

If anyone can recognize what kind of threat Mariota poses, it’s Buckner’s history of ties with the Hawaiian native. The young quarterback who once rushed 60 times for 455 yards and seven touchdowns in high school still remains a challenge for Buckner and the 49ers defense.

“He’s not a one-dimensional guy. He can hurt you with his feet, just like Russell Wilson and just like Cam Newton,” Buckner added. “We have to do a really good job when we’re pass rushing him.”


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