What should Beaver Nation expect from Vaz?

CORVALLIS – Um, Alert. College football teams have back-up quarterbacks for a reason. There are legitimate concerns to sweat the loss of Sean Mannion, sure, but some of the stuff coming out this week has been off the deep end. In the end though – will Cody Vaz having to step in and take the QB reins result in the Beavs moving to 5-0? Will it all be okay?

Cody Vaz will set up behind center for the first time since 2010 this weekend - not an altogether reassuring thought. Neither is the likelihood that Vaz may be asked to throw more passes in the first half of the BYU game than he has tossed in his entire career at Oregon State (17).

So what should Beaver fans expect? First and foremost – a lack of game experience does not typically translate into big numbers right off the bench for a quarterback, at OSU or elsewhere. Vaz, no matter how combat ready he may be, will be making his 2012 debut against the No.1 rushing defense/ No.5 overall defense in the nation.

Beaver fans had every right to feel a little intimidated at the prospect when Sean Mannion's torn meniscus was still unknown.

VAZ'S HEIGHT IS a cause for some concern – or is it? His perception of the field will not mimic that of Mannion's, and Vaz's timing will likely be a little delayed. Mannion at 6-5 is taller than Vaz by four inches – heck with the exception of Grant Enger (6-6) Mannion stands above every member of his offensive line by at least an inch. Vaz is an average of two inches shorter than OSU's starting front five and will have a harder time seeing everything develop.

Then again, Drew Brees (6-0) seems to be doing alright. So did Jonathan Smith (5-11) at Oregon State. So too have a bevy of other college quarterbacks. The question is if Vaz is one of "those guys."

Riley has said this week nothing much changes with Vaz in for Mannion but the guess here is a slightly different game plan has been built for Vaz – one that's designed to get him cleaner throwing lanes and one he's had a full week of practice with the 1's to work on.

THE PASSING GAME under Mike Riley and Danny Langsdorf is built around execution, not trickery. It goes a little something like this – run, play fake/short pass, pass to Wheaton or Cooks, throw in a long bomb if the defense crowds the box, maybe run it on fourth down if it's fourth and short.

Regardless of its apparent simplicity, it works. But part of the reason why it was effective is currently doing rehab after knee surgery.

Mannion had established a rhythm with guys like Cooks and Wheaton, a relationship on the field currently two years in the making. No doubt that those wideouts know Mannion's tendencies like the back of their hands, and vice versa. This comes from game experience and game experience only.

Asking Wheaton and Cooks to fully adjust to a different throwing speed and delivery is like asking a professional golfer to attempt his first put with a Cricket bat.

BUT THIS WILL, as it always is, be a game won or lost based on who executes best, who has the best strategy – hell, it might even some down to who plays nastiest in the fourth quarter. Emotions are sure to be running high as the orange and black look for their first 5-0 start since 1939.

Realistically, this group of receivers on Saturday should be able to adjust enough to Vaz to make the passing game a credible threat. Vaz has been learning and growing within the system for nearly three years now, he is a smart player and he needs to trust his instincts.

AND VAZ CAN cover ground more quickly than Mannion. During the fall, Vaz stood out to us for two reasons - accuracy in his throws and composure when moving out of the pocket to make a play. No, he isn't the type of player who is going to run the ball 15 times in one game for 100 plus yards though. But he is slippery.

That should work to his advantage against what is expected to be an unrelenting blitz approach courtesy of BYU, spearheaded in part by Brandon Ogletree, Eathyn Manumaleuna and Kyle Van Noy.

If Vaz proved one thing during fall camp, it was that he was far better at eluding the blitz compared to Mannion. The junior made some noise more than once, particularly in practice situations that had him backed up against his own goal line.

And his ability to sidestep a defender and move out of the zone will do wonders to open up his passing lanes – an additional benefit being that both Wheaton and Cooks are very agile and can make split-second adjustments according to Vaz's movements.

Riley will tell you that Vaz is more than prepared, if not over-prepared for this game. But that's not always to a new starter's benefit.

This won't be an easy game. Vaz is probably going to get knocked around a little more than people are anticipating, let's say three sacks minimum.

The OSU offensive line has improved markedly over last year but lacks real depth. Oregon State will have to rely more on controlling the game clock -- and tempo -- than they will on the guy passing the rock. This could be a very run heavy game for OSU – in order to keep Vaz poised and the defense on their toes, Mike Riley may gear his play calling towards the tailbacks early and often (and in the short passing game), something they have not yet done all that well.

BYU's front seven on defense are dynamic and exhibit lots of endurance. Unless Riley and crew decide they want to -- and then can execute some well-timed substitutions on the line with guys like Derek Nielsen and Gavin Andrews -- the Beaver O-line will likely be huffing and puffing as the game goes on.

One last thing, if OSU walks away with a big L on their record, it won't all be on Vaz's head – it will be a team defeat, not an individual loss. The pros outweigh the cons with Vaz, he just needs to get a fire under him. And for some things to go right early.

BeaverBlitz Top Stories