The Oregon State Beavers had already seen two of their best juniors declare early for the 2014 NFL Draft with wide receiver Brandin Cooks and defensive end Scott Crichton announcing they would skip their senior seasons in Corvallis. Luckily for Mike Riley and the Beavers, though, that might be the only major playmakers they lose early to the NFL Draft as quarterback Sean Mannion has confirmed he will return for his senior season in 2014, giving Oregon State a big arm to build around for next fall.
Mannion came into 2013 unsure about whether or not he would be the starting quarterback after suffering an inconsistent 2012 season due to a knee injury. But at 100 percent healthy, Mannion won the quarterback competition in fall camp and put together one of the best seasons under center in Oregon State history. The junior finished No. 2 in the country, averaging 358.6 yards per game as he threw for 4,662 yards with 37 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions. He set several school and Pac-12 records throughout the season as he displayed what his big arm could do.
He will get a chance to add to his legacy in 2014 as a senior with a Beaver team looking to finish the season much stronger than they did in 2013. He’ll have to find a new favorite target with Cooks moving on to the NFL, though sophomore Richard Mullaney started to emerge as a viable big-play target this season and should be ready to make the transition to No. 1 receiver next fall. Mannion could also do with a big more production out of the running game to give the offense balance and prevent defenses from playing the pass exclusively as they did down the stretch in 2013.
With Mannion locked in for next season, Oregon State has a very good shot at taking a positive step forward next fall as a program. Will the veteran leadership under center be enough to make the Beavers a dark-horse pick for the Pac-12 North?