Vaz handed the reins of OSU offense

CORVALLIS – Mike Riley made if official on Saturday, junior QB Cody Vaz will start against Texas on Dec. 29. The Beavers offense was on a roll Saturday afternoon – was it due to the final decision to slate Vaz as No.1? Regardless, the biggest question surrounding Oregon State headed into the Alamo Bowl has been answered.

"Cody Vaz is going to start the game," Mike Riley said Saturday. "And obviously it was a tough decision, but I guess that is a good thing."

What led Riley to the verdict?

"You try to mix everything in (to making this decision)," Riley said. "We try to use not just two weeks of bowl practice – we try to throw in what we thought went on during the season. And of course you know we have had a pretty good year – if we have a decent day throwing the ball against Texas, these two will have broken a school record (for passing yardage in a season)."

But in a year wrought with QB shifts due to injury and the occasional lackluster performances of both Vaz and former No. 1 Sean Mannion, is Vaz the starter for the future as well?

"Well obviously (the decision) is for right now," Riley said. "Both of these guys will continue to play on this team and compete, but right now we don't have to think any further than trying to win this game (Texas)."

Riley also said that there is a slight silver lining in the result for those willing to see it. A luxury afforded to OSU that some programs would covet.

"We are choosing between good, and good," Riley said. "Not between good and bad."

For those in attendance at Saturdays practice, Mannion's body language told a story all its own. One did not need to be member of the press, hearing the verdict straight from the horse's mouth. The way Mannion walked, the way he kind of slumped instead of standing straight, the relatively few reps he received – that is what truly told the story.

Vaz was brimming with confidence, but noted that his support for Mannion will not wane.

"I had no idea (until Saturday morning)," Vaz said. "They (the coaches) just told me this morning before team meetings. Like I've said before, I support him when he is in there, and he is going to support me I assume."

So all that fun stuff happened, but so did an actual practice.

There were two primary standouts on Saturday – junior corner Sean Martin and sophomore safety Tyrequek Zimmerman. Martin plays like the top candidate for the soon to be vacated CB slot courtesy of Jordan Poyer graduating. Martin had a few errors in judgment when it came to coverage on Saturday, but was very active and excelled on a number of other plays. He got in the receiver's face, and nearly picked Vaz off after reading a curl route perfectly and jumping the pass. If I am Mike Riley/Rod Perry, I'm observing Martin's progress with confidence that he can make a contribution against Texas and beyond.

And Vaz isn't the only one getting the starting nod - Zimmerman might be getting one as well. He had filled in for then injured senior Anthony Watkins during most of the regular season before Watkins muscled his way back in. But Zimmerman got the work with the 1's today, running alongside Ryan Murphy. Zimmerman is faster than Watkins, albeit not as inclined toward stopping the run -- which could be exceedingly important in San Antonio. Zimmerman has great closing speed and as he has garnered more and more experience, his ability to close gaps in zone coverage and stop plays before they happen has improved.

Offensively, Saturday was a good day and the 1's were just clicking. The big guys up front blocked consistently and remained agile off each snap (with the exception of one play, where Isaac Seumalo snapped the ball, and all four of his fellow down linemen were about a second later off the ball than the oncoming pass rushers). The running lanes were plentiful, with Storm Woods and Terron Ward exploiting gaps with relative ease.

As for the wide receivers and tight ends…

I've been covering this team for four and a half months now, and Saturday was one of the best days for the whole receiving corps, and that includes sophomore tight end Connor Hamlett. Maybe they were more comfortable since an actual starter had been named, but no matter what the contributing factors may have been, it was plain fun to watch these guys gunning for each pass.

Some quick hitters on some of the receivers for Vaz heading into the Alamo Bowl:

Markus Wheaton – the certified veteran, straight up dynamo with the softest hands on the team.

Brandin Cooks – Breaks ankles like a pissed off Mafia Don and seems to be healthy again. He laid a juke on Larry Scott today that was a jaw dropper.

Connor Hamlett – With a little work, he could be the second biggest weapon behind Cooks next year. Vaz and Mannion love throwing to him. He has sure hands and a big frame that makes him lethal in the redzone.

Richard Mullaney – Has hands made out of Stick-Um. Riley and Co. should just cut out the middle man and Gorilla Glue that pigskin to Mullaney's palms. Call it over-exaggeration, but Mullaney is the next (and more agile) Mike Hass in my book.

Kevin Cummings – Had a big day on Saturday and made a string of clutch receptions in the end zone. Cumming's forte is consistency – he won't be the guy to break a play wide open, but he presents a comfortable target with average speed and hands. Next to Wheaton, Cummings probably has the best knowledge of the playbook, and that is an invaluable asset to have looking ahead to the bowl game, let alone next season.

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