And this just in: Injuries happen. And nowhere is a prolonged injury more grievous than at the starting QB position.
There is of course absolutely no question that Mannion is the starter heading into the 2014 regular season, and there's certainly promise that exists with the three pocket passers waiting in the wings behind him. But, say, did we mention not one of them has ever taken a snap on Saturdays?
Redshirt freshman Brent Vanderveen (6-4, 210) certainly improved in 2013 from what I saw. His accuracy and arm strength are leaps and bounds from where they were at upon his entrance to the program in ‘12. His knowledge of Mike Riley's offense should be adequate, and with further implementation into practice routines, he can be a strong No. 2 behind Mannion now that Cody Vaz has graduated.
Next in line in my view is Kyle Kempt (6-4, 205), a freshman who spent last fall camp and the 2013 regular season on the scout team. Kempt entered fall camp last year with a well-honed arm and decent field vision for a freshman, and he has the advantage of having practiced against the starting defense for over four months.
But Kempt won't surpass Vanderveen in the rotation without a dynamite spring camp session. And while Del Rio could steal the show this spring, he's (currently) ineligible to play in 2014.
ALL IN ALL, OSU will hit the ground running with an intelligent starter in Mannion, and a cupboard stocked with young talent ripe for further development.
From where I sit, this spring will likely be less about Mannion, and more about making sure that those backing him up are ready to step up if Mannion is somehow incapacitated down the road.
Riley knows what he has in Mannion. He knows far less about the trio behind him.
And at this point, it would seem that Vanderveen has the most to lose heading into spring ball. He is the de facto No. 2 behind Mannion, but that designation isn't set in stone.
Kempt could explode after a strong offseason, and one must also remember that OSU is expecting two other QB's in fall camp later this year. Yes, they will be true freshmen and the odds are long either could figure into the backup role behind Mannion in ‘14. But you never really know what you've got until you get ‘em on the college field in Corvallis.