The Oregon State Beavers find themselves in familiar territory this spring as they are mired in a quarterback competition between junior Sean Mannion and senior Cody Vaz. Injuries forced a quarterback shuffle in 2012 and opened the door for Vaz to compete for the starting job in his final season. But if Mike Riley and Beavers hope to take the next step in 2013, Mannion must be the under center.
Mannion is the prototypical quarterback. At 6-foot-5, he is tall with a big arm and nice accuracy to make all the throws Oregon State will need him to make next season. He is big and strong and already won this quarterback competition last season. Mannion’s best is simply better that Vaz’s best.
The problem, of course, was that Mannion didn’t always show his best in 2012. In eight starts, Mannion completed 64.7 percent of his passes for 2,446 yards and threw 15 touchdown passes but also threw 13 interceptions. His uneven play led to him riding the bench during the Beavers’ bowl game, but could be attributed to the knee injury that got Vaz into the starting lineup to begin with.
In the first three games of the season, before Mannion injured his knee against the Washington State Cougars, the then-sophomore completed 82-of-127, good for a 64.6 completion percentage, for 1,088 yards with six touchdowns and just one interception.That performance pushed Oregon State to a 3-0 start with a home win over the Wisconsin Badgers and road wins over the UCLA Bruins and Arizona Wildcats.
Taking a closer look, 11 of Mannion’s 13 interceptions came in three games: against WSU when he hurt his knee, against the Washington Huskies when he rushed back from the knee injury and against the Oregon Ducks late in the season. Outside of those three poor performances, two of which could be directly attributed to the knee injury, Mannion displayed excellent ball security.
With a full offseason to get truly healthy, Mannion shouldn’t be hindered by the knee and Riley can rely on him to play more like he did in his first three games last season. His ability to make plays down the field in the passing game will be vital to the Beavers’ chances of making a run at the Pac 12 North division title and a spot in the Pac 12 Championship game.
Cody Vaz is a solid option at quarterback who doesn’t make a lot of mistakes with the football. But his ceiling maxes out at “pretty good,” which isn’t enough to get it done for Oregon State in 2013. In a hyper-competitive division with two likely top-five teams to overcome, Sean Mannion is the only choice for Oregon State.