|Steve Dykes / Associated Press|
|Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion leads the FBS with 1,604 passing yards.|
Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion is putting up unreal numbers, made all the more unreal when you consider the makeshift offensive line in front of him.
Starting right tackle Gavin Andrew came down with mono in fall camp and is just now resuming conditioning work. His replacement, Grant Enger, suffered a knee injury against Hawaii. Roman Sapolu, who stepped in for Enger at right guard, hurt his foot in the same game and is likely to miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery. Center Josh Mitchell sprained his ankle against San Diego State and is day-to-day.
Yet Mannion leads the FBS with 1,604 passing yards and has a better passing efficiency mark than more heralded quarterbacks A.J. McCarron of Alabama and Brett Hundley of UCLA. Mannion has thrown 15 touchdowns against one interception, is completing 71.5 percent of his passes in a vertical offense that doesn't load up on bubble screens and easy throws, and has been sacked only four times.
The Beavers have needed Mannion to be prolific to overcome a struggling defense and mediocre running game, otherwise their 3-1 record would almost certainly be 1-3.
It is an impressive turnaround for a player whose performance had not matched up to his prototype attributes (6-foot-5, 208 pounds). After redshirting in 2010, Mannion had started 18 games over the past two seasons, posting 31 touchdowns against 31 interceptions. And when things went bad, they went really bad, with Mannion throwing multiple picks in nine games.
There were no guarantees that Mannion would even hold off redshirt senior Cody Vaz for the starting job this season. But Mannion's accuracy and poise in the pocket have improved greatly, allowing Mannion to take advantage of a fine rapport with emerging superstar wide receiver Brandin Cooks -- who leads the FB with 43 receptions, 639 receiving yards, and seven touchdowns -- and justify head coach Mike Riley's decision.
Hundley, Marcus Mariota of Oregon and Kevin Hogan of Stanford may dominate the quarterback conversation in the Pac-12, but no one is doing more with less than Mannion.
Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.