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July 24, 2013

Riley discusses quarterbacks

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Traveling 3,000 miles across the country couldn't convince Mike Riley to spill the beans on which quarterback - Sean Mannion or Cody Vaz - will start the season opener against Eastern Washington.

Instead, he plans to extend the competition, which began in spring practice, into the early stages of preseason camp before announcing a decision.

In other words, Riley isn't feeling a great deal of pressure to anoint one quarterback as 'the guy' right now.

"You've heard that old adage about the fact that if you have two quarterbacks, you really don't have any," Riley said Wednesday at ESPN's headquarters in Bristol, Conn. during the Pac-12's annual two-day 'Car Wash' festivities. "But I'm a firm non-believer in that. I'm really proud of the fact we have both of these guys, they're good guys, they're good workers and they're well respected."

Riley played no favorites in the spring, giving each quarterback an equal opportunity to showcase their skills and prove their case to be the starter. It remains to be seen whether Riley will continue to evenly divide the practice snaps when preseason camp opens in Corvallis.

"What we did in the spring, and I thought it was very good, they just split everything evenly," Beavers coach Mike Riley said Wednesday at ESPN's headquarters in Bristol, Conn. "Even to the point where one quarterback got the turns with the first offense on one day and the other had the first turns the next day. We just rotated them back-and-forth all spring long.

"I like both kids a lot. They both bring a lot of good quarterbacking. They both can grow. We've won games with both of them. We just looked at spring practice as further development."

Riley acknowledged keeping Mannion on the bench during the bowl game raised eyebrows.

"That was probably the hardest thing we had to do the whole year," Riley said. "The first decision to play Cody was due to injury. After that, Sean got healthy and we went back-and-forth. But the bowl game decision was hard. What we decided to do after that was bring everybody back to even and let's go into spring ball and then fall camp."

We may have gotten a clue earlier this month about the direction the position could take when the Beaver players voted Mannion one of five team captains, making the upcoming season the second straight in which the 6-foot-5 California native will serve as a captain.

Or maybe not.

"In some regard (it is meaningful), but I also note that Cody Vaz got a lot of votes too," Riley said. "Sean made an impact upon this team when he was a freshman just with his work ethic. He's built that up over a long period of time. So, he's been doing it a little bit longer. Our final decision can't be affected by something like that, but I sure appreciate it. I'm glad both guys were recognized with a lot of votes by our team.

"We're going to let the football part and the production part of it as we go through fall camp play the major part of our decision."

When will a decision on the starting quarterback ultimately be made? Oregon State opens preseason camp on August 5. Riley hinted fans and the media won't have to wait long before the Oregon State offensive coaches reach a verdict.

"At some point here early we're going to make some kind of decision about where we're going to go," Riley said. "I don't think we can be wrong, but it's also something we have to be very careful with. But we do have to make a decision pretty early in fall camp. I feel very good about both of them and where they're at and how they're competing."

Mannion (2,446 passing yards, 15 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, 64.7 pct. completion rate) and Vaz (1,480 passing yards, 11 touchdowns, three interceptions, 58.9 pct. completion rate) both experienced ups-and-downs last season, though they combined to lead the Beavers to nine wins.

"They're really good quarterbacks for us," Riley said. "They're abilities fit what we like to do. They're smart, competitive and well respected. Our team trusts both guys. So, we're still in a bit of a quandary of how all of this is going to work out. So, we'll let them play a little in fall camp and then make a decision. But I do like the fact we have both of them because both can win."

Whichever quarterback wins the starting job faces a favorable schedule through the first seven games. The Beaver should be favored in every one, meaning unless the Beavers are upset along the way, they could be undefeated heading into the October 26 home clash against Stanford at Reser Stadium.

Before that Week 9 contest, OSU faces road tests at Utah (Sept. 14), San Diego State (Sept. 21), Washington State (Oct. 12) and California (Oct. 19). Maneuvering through that early minefield will determine the importance of the November stretch run.

Accepting every game as equally important - home or road - is fundamental to experiencing success on the road, Riley said.

"Just that continuity of preparation is the biggest thing we just keep trying to hammer home," Riley said. "It's not about where (the game) is going to be, it's about how you've prepared for that ballgame and that team and what they do. Preparation is always the key. Maintaining that level of intensity for preparation is always the biggest deal for me."

NOTES:

-- Riley on OSU's situation at defensive tackle: "We're still going through some stuff at this late date finding out if a final couple of guys are going to make it. We should be OK depth wise, but we certainly want as many opportunities for players to make an impact. So, we would like all the guys we recruited to be in camp. I don't know if that will be the case. That's the big area, right down the middle of our defense - the inside linebackers and the two defensive tackles. Who will be able to play and make an impact for us."

--According to the award-winning Oregon State sports information office, the 2013 roster features 56 returning letterwinners that have combined to make 291 starts, including 88 combined starts on the offensive line. Individually, the Beavers are led by senior left tackle Michael Philipp (35), senior cornerback Rashaad Reynolds (25), senior linebacker Michael Doctor (24) and junior defensive end Scott Crichton (24).

-- Riley on how former Oregon coach Chip Kelly will do with the Philadelphia Eagles: "I think he's going to do great. I have a lot of respect for Chip. He did a great job of coaching football. People always ask me how that stuff they did at Oregon is going to translate to the NFL. That part of it, Chip is smart. He's going to still use what he likes and do whatever fits his personnel. He'll adapt."

-- ESPN noted that Riley is one of 15 coaches that have moved directly from being a head coach in the Pac-12 to a NFL head coach, far more than any other conference.



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