Quarterback Controversy Be ‘Dammed'

CORVALLIS -- What quarterback controversy? Cody Vaz is in and Sean Mannion is out, so where is the rub?

I feel obligated to point out that this is the last thing anyone in Beaver Nation expected to see in 2012.

Some may have predicted an undefeated season, others may have been less optimistic, relegating the OSU football team to the same platform as Colorado and WSU. Still others were preaching fire and brimstone, zebras run amuck on the field, Sean Mannion throws for over 4,000 yards (my bad) – but this? No one expected a confrontation for the starting QB spot at Oregon State.

Yet, lo and behold – a mid-season switch-aroo from a head coach who pretty much always sticks with his guy through most anything. And yet here now is Cody Vaz as the No.1 quarterback heading into the ASU match up.

We all know that a switch has been made. What we don't know -- why now?

IN SEASONS PAST, Mike Riley has been both the unstoppable force and the immovable object when it came to rotating quarterbacks, especially this late into the season.

Some (myself included) were looking for Vaz at the beginning of the third quarter last Saturday night against UW. But I didn't really believe Riley would make the switch, then or later in the game. But he did.

The Beavs looked shell shocked after Mannion's fourth pick, Riley put Vaz in next possession, and everything just clicked. Asked why he made the move, Riley said about what you'd expect him to say – Vaz is playing a little better right now and it seemed like the right move.

The guess here is that the Beavs 6-0 record also had a lot to do with it. And the reason Vaz is starting this week has something to do with their now 6-1 record. Oregon State has no more room for error when it comes to being in charge of their own destiny in the Pac-12. And so OSU can't wait for Mannion to work himself out of the funk he was in on Saturday, they need to go with the guy playing the best right now – and that goes for every position.

But why are things clicking for Vaz?

HE WAS "Vaz-tastic" in his first start for an injured Mannion, not so much the next week. Bottom line, he has played good football, commanded the offense and made better decisions than Mannion – he has done his job. The BYU and Utah games proved that. So what if at 6-1 he doesn't have prototypical height - neither does Drew Brees. And Doug Flutie could have used a foot or two.

Still, it feels like the right choice. Beyond the stats (Vaz is 43-for-69, 603 yards, 4 TDs, no interceptions while Mannion is 125-for-203, 1,579 yards, 8 TDs, 8 INTs) Vaz is arguably more alert, mobile and better suited for the offense Oregon State runs.

Vaz is a ‘three-four steps and fire' quarterback. Mannion take more time, then often launches a tougher-to-catch ball or a deep bomb. There is more risk-reward with Mannion, but not as much finesse nor subtlety.

With Vaz you get that, and by extension a potentially increased level of stability at the position. Vaz is more agile and he's a QB very aware of the field, both in and out of the pocket. He looks comfortable scurrying around and making guys miss, extending plays.

Mannion to his credit did try to make a few throws on the move last weekend – but he got picked off on two of those throws. That's the key deficit to his game right now, considering the Pac-12 is chocked full of speedy defensive linemen.

And the Beavs will be facing two of them this weekend in Will Sutton and Davon Coleman -- which brings up another reason why Riley might have made the move.

I DOUBT THAT I'm the only one thinking a mobile, precision style of quarterback would have a better go of maneuvering these guys than a strong-armed obelisk. Vaz is a good match against a ravenous ASU secondary that feeds off their defensive line's ability to force bad throws.

Riley does runs the risk of not having Mannion's height and throwing power in the ring against the No.3 ranked passing defense in the nation – a defense with 11 combined interceptions. Vaz is has a much different view of the field than the 6-5 Mannion – and he does not have as powerful of an arm.

Vaz also has a lack of game experience. He has played in three games his entire time at OSU, his first two starts coming this year against BYU and Utah.

And there you have the argument against Vaz – shorter, not as much zip on his mid- and long-range deep throws and lack of game time under his belt. Those arguments disappeared in the win over BYU. But they returned in the game against Utah.

All three of those negative tick marks can be combated with good coaching. Riley and Danny have installed a simple yet effective offense - one that Vaz has studied for three years. He has seen the successes and mistakes of Ryan Katz, Lyle Moevao and Mannion – and all indications are that he's learned from them.

Another question begs for after the game, but I'll touch on it now – will Vaz ride the wave for the remainder of the season? Our magic eight ball says yes, but…

As in yes, but... he's going to have a whale of a game against ASU to ensure that. If Vaz can post three touchdowns on a 250-300 yard passing game, he will remain the No.1 in the weeks following this crucial Week Eight showdown. But first things first, as Vaz and OSU need to worry about getting a win and keeping hold of their own fate.


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