Mannion leads OSU offense

Senior quarterback key for Oregon State football

By Zack Hall / The Bulletin / @cogolfguy

The Mannion file

Name: Sean Mannion

Ht/Wt: 6-5, 227

Year: Senior

From: Pleasanton, Calif.

STATS

Com-Att-Int Yds TD

2013 400-603-15 4,662 37

2012 200-309-13 2,446 15

2011 305-473-18 3,328 16

Total 905-1,385-46 10,436 68

CORVALLIS —

Sean Mannion looked more confident and poised.

He answered questions from reporters with certainty and frankness, without the many cliches he had relied upon as a freshman starter.

Oregon State’s fifth-year senior quarterback looked the part of team leader.

“Everyone tells me I’ve been more talkative, which I guess is a good thing,” Mannion said Monday on the field of the Tommy Prothro Practice Complex moments after wrapping up the first practice of the preseason. “I guess a lot of it is kind of coming out of my shell.

“I’ve always felt like I’m a quiet guy,” he continued. “You just get more and more comfortable with your teammates and with the people around here. As I’ve gotten older and gotten more used to my surroundings year by year, I feel a lot more comfortable speaking out.”

Mannion is the only Beaver on the cover of Oregon State’s 2014 football media guide, a sign of just how important he is to this team.

After a season in which he completed 66 percent of his 603 passes for a Pac-12 Conference record 4,662 yards, his emergence as the face of the program might not be a surprise.

Blessed with the size and rocket arm the NFL covets, the 6-foot-5-inch, 227-pound Mannion needs to lead the offense more now than ever, a responsibility he admitted he has not always found easy to accept.

“Playing quarterback, in a lot of ways you are directing traffic on the field,” said Mannion, whose 10,436 career passing yards put him on pace to smash Derek Anderson’s school record (11,249 yards, 2001-04). “I think if I can be more vocal, and more outspoken in terms of what guys need to be doing and where they need to be, I think it will help get everybody on the same page.”

The task will not be so easy.

Mannion will pilot an offense with a new offensive coordinator — former NFL assistant John Garrett has replaced longtime coordinator Danny Langsdorf, who was hired during the offseason by the New York Giants — a reworked front line, and at least five new starters.

Oh, and the Beavers have to figure out how to replace the production of Brandin Cooks, who reeled in an otherworldly 128 passes for 1,730 yards and 16 touchdowns last year before taking his talents to the New Orleans Saints.

The Beavers do have talent at receiver, led by sophomore playmaker Victor Bolden.

“But there is no replacement for Brandin Cooks,” said Storm Woods, OSU’s junior running back, who needs to bounce back after struggling in 2013. “Not saying Vic (Bolden) can’t have a great year like that, but there is no replacement.”

Mannion’s answer seems to be the right one.

He said he met daily with his young group of receivers in the offseason, and as the summer wore on, he expanded the drills to include more offensive players.

“There was some growing pains in spring, I think that is fair to say,” Mannion said of his receivers. “But you could tell they were talented. That’s what I’ve really tried to do in this whole offseason is keep calling plays with them, keep breaking the huddle, lining up, running a play, so we can address some of the missed-assignment issues. That’s stuff that can be fixed pretty easily.”

Even if the passing game resembles the record-breaking attack of 2013, the Beavers have other concerns on offense.

In games in which the Beavers ran the ball well, such as the Civil War and the Hawaii Bowl against Boise State, the Beavers’ offense looked nearly unstoppable. But mostly, the Beavers struggled to run, ranking 11th in the Pac-12 with 94.4 yards per game. Against the league’s better defenses, that lack of an effective ground game made Oregon State far too one-dimensional and forced Mannion into too many rushed — and too often poor — decisions.

Even with the return of Woods and Terron Ward, the Beavers’ two leading rushers from a year ago, the offensive line is at best a work in progress at the season’s onset.

The line already had to replace at least three starters, and all-conference-caliber center Isaac Seumalo has spent the early days of camp limping around in a boot after offseason foot surgery.

All of which helps explain why coach Mike Riley seemed concerned after the first day of practice.

“I still have high hopes that by the time the season gets rolling, or shortly into it, that we will be good up front with a solid five starters and then have the best depth we’ve had in a long time,” the Beavers’ veteran coach said. “This picture can change with the health of Isaac and Grant Bays (who is nursing an injured back) and everybody else staying healthy and progressing as players. This could be a good picture.

“It’s just average right now. We have a lot of work to do if this is the way it’s going to be.”

Mannion spent last year’s preseason camp fighting to beat out senior Cody Vaz for the starting job.

He does not have to worry about such things these days.

No, his job during preseason camp is altogether different this year.

“I feel like I’ve learned a lot each year I have been here,” Mannion said. “As one of the older guys, I just try to build off of that, but also help the young guys coming in.”

This is Mannion’s offense now. And it will be up to him to keep it running while the rest of the unit sorts everything out.

— Reporter: 541-617-7868, zhall@bendbulletin.com.