QB will return to OSU for work on his mobility and more

by: COURTESY OF JOHN LARIVIERE - Sean Mannion, passing for Oregon State in the 2013 Civil War game, says he wants to scramble for some first downs next season.Much went into Sean Mannion's decision to eschew a shot at the May NFL draft and remain at Oregon State for his senior season.

There were discussions with several important people: parents John and Inga Mannion (John is the coach at Silverton High), Oregon State coach Mike Riley and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf, and former OSU quarterbacks Derek Anderson and Matt Moore, both of whom have enjoyed lengthy NFL careers.

"I spoke twice with Derek and once with Matt and texted with Derek several times," Mannion says. "It was great to hear their opinions. They did a good job of trying to give me information and stay neutral. I bounced a lot of stuff off them."

After all of that, and taking into consideration the NFL College Advisory Committee projected him to be a third-round pick, Mannion put together a "pro/con list," he says.

The cons outweighed the pros. The 6-5, 220-pound Pleasanton, Calif., native opted to stay put, work on his craft, and improve his draft status for a year from now.

"What it came down to for me was this: At some point, I'm going to try to be a player in the NFL," Mannion says. "Until then, I want to make the most of my college career. I want to feel I became the best player I can be.

"With one more year, I can make improvements, and our team can improve. That was really what led to my decision to stay. I want to look myself in the mirror and say, 'You became the best player you could be at Oregon State.' "

Mannion said a strong nucleus of returning players — 17 starters, including kicker Trevor Romaine and punter Keith Kostol from the 2013 team — and his strong relationship with Riley and Langsdorf impacted his decision.

"I feel great at Oregon State," Mannion says. "I feel great about playing here. I'm close with both 'Langs' and Coach Riley. The chance to play another season for two people I know really well is a benefit.

"You don't replace Brandin Cooks," Mannion says of the OSU star who has made himself eligible for the NFL draft. "He was the best receiver in college football. He leaves behind a huge legacy. But when we lost Markus (Wheaton after the 2012 season), we replaced him with Brandin. We're going to look to do the same thing with Brandin next season. It may not be one guy. It may be a bunch of guys. Whether it's Richard Mullaney or Victor Bolden or Malik Gilmore or our group of tight ends … we have a lot of options."

Had Mannion departed for the NFL, he'd have left Oregon State with two returning quarterbacks — sophomore Brent VanderVeen and redshirt freshman Kyle Kempt — who have not played a down of college football. Mannion said that didn't impact his choice. Nor did the situation with Cooks and defensive end Scott Crichton, who also is moving on to the NFL draft.

"I didn't want to tie my decision to those of other people," Mannion says. "It was important that I make the decision I felt was right for me. It's good for me, and Oregon State as well. It's something I feel good about."

As a junior last fall, Mannion threw for a Pac-12 single-season record 4,662 yards and 37 touchdowns, with 15 interceptions. He has thrown for 10,436 career yards, ranking second behind Anderson (11,249) on the OSU list and 10th on the Pac-12 list. He needs 1,839 yards next season to pass USC's Matt Barkley (12,274, 2009-12) as the all-time Pac-12 leader.

"I wouldn't say that was part of it at all," Mannion says. "I'm not a stat guy. It would be a very cool achievement, but I wouldn't say I'm staying to break records."

The 2014 draft is rich in quarterback talent, with Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, Fresno State's Derek Carr and Central Florida's Blake Bortles all projected as first-round picks. Among those QBs also expected to go in the first four rounds are Alabama's A.J. McCarron, Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo, LSU's Zach Mettenberger, Clemson's Tajh Boyd, Wyoming's Brett Smith, Georgia's Aaron Murray and San Jose State's David Fales.

Riley's recommendation to Mannion was that he would benefit from another year of college football. Next season will provide an opportunity for Mannion to grow as a quarterback, work on his strength and quickness, increase his mobility in the pocket, cut down on interceptions and, perhaps move into first-round territory for the 2015 draft.

While Riley doesn't want to turn Mannion into a runner, he'd like his quarterback to be able to scramble and slide when picking up extra yardage is necessary. Mannion wants that for next season, too.

"It's not something I'm going to make a habit of doing," he says. "I'm not going to have 15 rushes a game. But speaking with people who gave me advice — not only to help my team win, but for my draft stock — it's a chance to show on third-and-5, I can run for six yards and a first down.

"I'm not psyching myself out over it, but if I can make a few plays like that this upcoming year, it will serve me and the team well."

Mannion graduated fall term with a bachelor's degree in liberal studies. He is enrolled in a post-baccalaureate teacher credential program and is considering beginning work on a master's degree. Once his football career is over, he'd like to get into coaching, preferably at the college level.

For now, he has to be enrolled for 12 credits for each of the next two terms, then a minimum of one credit next fall.

"It will be nice to lighten the class load," Mannion says. "During fall term, I took 18 credits so I could graduate. To be back to a more manageable number will be good. I can concentrate more on football."

Mannion is eager to become more familiar with all of his receivers, including freshmen Jordan Villamin, Hunter Jarmin and Walter Jones, who redshirted last fall.

"That's going to be the fun part of this year," Mannion says. "I didn't get to see a lot of those guys. From what I've heard from the scout-team guys, they have a lot of talent. Spring ball will be their first chance to really show what they can do in our offensive system. I can't wait to get started."