When Oregon State football coach Mike Riley released his depth chart for spring practice, the first position to check out was quarterback.
Sean Mannion was listed first and Cody Vaz second. But Riley was quick to point out that he should have inserted "or" between their names.
No offseason decisions had been made regarding a position that has been inconsistent for the Beavers. Instead, it's the status quo, which means the unknown.
"We have just been working hard this offseason," Mannion said. "It's all we can do. Spring hasn't started yet, so it's all about the weight room and throwing on our own."
Riley plans to let them play it out through spring practice, which begins today and through training camp, up until the first week of the season when OSU begins game preparations for Eastern Washington on Aug. 31.
Underclassmen Brent VanderVeen and Richie Harrington will also get some looks, but they are in development for the future.
"You can't read anything into that," Riley said of his depth chart. "We are going to spilt their time evenly. It will be one or the other."
Riley even asked the media to avoid daily questions about the quarterback competition. The coach and players apparently grew weary of the situation last season.
"I won't make a decision until the end of fall camp," Riley said. "I'm just going to let them play and grow. They'll have even turns unless someone takes the bull by the horns and separates. And that has to be by a significant margin."
Mannion began last year as the unquestioned starter and a team captain as chosen by the players. He even played like it and led the team to a 4-0 record until a minor knee injury required surgery.
Vaz keep the Beavers moving forward with a 3-1 record in his starts while Mannion recovered, and won the starting job until an ankle injury allowed Mannion back in.
Neither quarterback was 100 percent until practice began for the Alamo Bowl. Mannion didn't pass as accurately in the weeks leading up to the game and Vaz won the job.
His rough outing in the bowl combined with Mannion's brief strong showing left the competition open.
"It's a matter of who comes out of this as the most consistent, best player and that will take time," Riley said. "They are both knowledgeable and worked hard and prepared."
Both quarterbacks have been praised by coaches in how they've handled the changes and competition. They've also supported each other from the sidelines.
Former OSU quarterback Lyle Moevao, who went through the same situation with Sean Canfield from 2007-09, advised them on how to handle the situation in the middle of last season.
Moevao felt they were working well together. Now that he is one of OSU's graduate assistants, he plans to help them more.
"They have to handle the competition and improve," Riley said. "There's the pressure of competing that's good and the pressure of being a good teammate and that's good. They have to accomplish that."
Riley believes another round of competition will be good for Vaz and Mannion as people and football players.
He expects them both to be game-ready for the opener when he announces his choice. He also expects that whoever doesn't win the job to be mentally prepared for the disappointment.
"I know I've been taking it very seriously, working really hard," Mannion said. "I'm sure Cody has been doing the same. We are going to go into spring ball, we'll play our best and see what happens."