Sean Mannion: No regrets

CORVALLIS – Sean Mannion had just completed a monster season. He set Oregon State single season records for both passing yards (4,662) and passing touchdowns (37). He had the attention of NFL scouts and coaches, and his name could have been called as early as the second or third round of the NFL draft. By now, he could have been a millionaire.

But he chose to delay all that. Instead, Sean Mannion decided to return to Oregon State to play out his senior season.

“It’s something I gave thought to. I talked to a lot of people, tried to just gather information,” Mannion said. “Ultimately, I felt I could still improve as a player, and I wanted to be back here with my teammates.”

Flash-forward 10 months from that time and Mannion’s senior season looks almost nothing like his junior season. If he were to finish this season at the same pace he’s been playing at, Mannion would throw for 2,910 yards and 12 touchdowns. That’s a far cry from last year, when Mannion in addition to the OSU program mark also set the all-time Pac-12 single season mark for passing yards.

However, Mike Riley said Sunday in a conference call that those numbers don’t accurately represent his fourth-year starting quarterback.

“He’s a better quarterback, even though his numbers don’t show it, than he was a year ago,” Riley said. “Without veteran receivers, and with us trying to shore up the line, I think that he's done real well. I think he's managed games well and made throws.”

Anyone who has followed the Beavers this year knows that Mannion himself is not the primary reason for his atypical stats. The Beavers first had to weather the departures of both Brandin Cooks -- and three long-time starters on the offensive line. Throw in the injury to Richard Mullaney and this offense is going to have problems.

On many plays, Mannion doesn’t have enough time to throw to receivers that aren’t getting open.

Nonetheless, cyberspace draftniks have been hard on Mannion this year, and his stock appears to be falling (depending on how much stock you put in internet draft gurus.)

From my chair, the internet and media experts tend to overlook the team’s struggles as a whole, and they blame Mannion for the team’s poor offense relative to last year. On a few websites, Mannion has gone from a third round pick to a seventh rounder -- or worse he’s going undrafted.

Obviously there’s still a lot of football yet to be played, and who knows how much the prognosticators’ view will match up with NFL draft boards, especially on a player whose body of work is as accomplished as Mannion.

Mannion, himself, isn’t phased. If he could have gone back to January, knowing what he knew now about how the first half of the season would play out, Mannion said he’d do it again.

“Yes. Same decision,” Mannion said. “Honestly at this point it’s so long ago, that stuff hasn’t really crossed my mind.”

That could be, but with former teammate and current NFL rookie Brandin Cooks preparing to play in the national spotlight on Thursday night Football, it’s hard not to imagine there’s a little sliver of regret.

Then again, Mannion may just be that devoted to his team.

Whatever the case may be, the 2014 NFL draft is long in the past, and Mannion’s main focus right now is on getting the OSU offense back on track.

Fortunately for OSU fans, Mannion and the Beavs are going up against the Pac-12’s worst defense, statistically speaking.

And if Mannion is going to again start putting up big numbers, this is the week.

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