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  • COLLEGE FOOTBALL

    Mannion's learning curve is growing

    Oregon State star is spending the summer counseling top prep quarterbacks
  • BEAVERTON — Sean Mannion caused renowned quarterback coach George Whitfield to stop a meeting during the Elite 11 Finals.
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  • BEAVERTON — Sean Mannion caused renowned quarterback coach George Whitfield to stop a meeting during the Elite 11 Finals.
    Mannion, Oregon State's record-setting rising senior, was not being disruptive. Quite the contrary.
    While going over specifics that would help the nation's top quarterback recruits in their next on-field competition, Whitfield noticed Mannion and Baylor's Bryce Petty furiously scribbling notes in the back of the room. Meanwhile, some of the high schoolers looked a bit too relaxed, leaning back in their chairs with their arms folded.
    "There's a couple counselors back here taking notes," Whitfield told the group, "purely for the essence and learning and trying to get more information."
    The Elite 11 brought Mannion, along with a handful of other premier college quarterbacks, on board as a counselor because of what he could teach the next crop of signal-callers. But Mannion said he did just as much learning from the likes of Whitfield and former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer during his three days at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton.
    "I know it's kind of a high school event," Mannion said while watching Monday's workout. "But for me, I feel like I've gotten a lot out of it ... there's a bunch of great coaches and a bunch of other great college players.
    "It's just a great environment for quarterbacks here, and I definitely feel like I've grown a lot as well."
    Sure, Mannion served the mentor role. He mostly tried to be a "bridge" between high school player and coach, emphasizing tactics like going first in a drill, demonstrating throws and offering encouragement.
    Yet Mannion's highlight came when he won the Counselor's Challenge, beating out peers like Petty, Michigan State's Connor Cook, Utah's Travis Wilson and Notre Dame's Everett Golson by using his immense arm strength and continuing to focus on mechanics like footwork.
    One exercise — called the play-action "chaos" drill — particularly impressed Whitfield because it showed Mannion "can improve in real time."
    The drill requires the quarterback to drop back, then take off sprinting flat to his left. While being chased by two ball boys, the quarterback must turn his shoulders and throw the ball to a receiver running even with him about 20 yards down the field.
    Mannion's first two throws landed in the bushes behind the end zone. The third toss barely missed the receiver. The fourth, fifth and sixth passes were "probably some of the best balls in that drill," Whitfield said.
    "You just see him head-nodding (in between throws) and squinting," said Whitfield, who is also an ESPN analyst. "And you can see, in his mind, him working out the math, (that) there's a way to do this. Whether he's listening to how we're saying and coaching it, or he's watching some of the other kids that are doing it pretty well, (he's learning) ...
    "Not to nerd it out, that's exciting for me as a developer, to watch a guy who's that — not to call him old, but he's not a 14-year-old — to still be that pliable in his learning and in his adaptability. Because a lot of guys just kind of get set and they define themselves, 'This is who I am. This is what I do. I don't need this drill because I'm still this guy,' and it gets lost. But that wasn't the case for him."
    Following Monday afternoon's workout, Mannion's role changed to tour guide, showing the rest of the college quarterbacks around Portland.
    Soon, he'll morph back into a teacher and student as a counselor at the Manning Passing Academy later this week.
    It's all been the perfect way to spend the summer, Mannion said. He did not get the opportunity to participate in the Elite 11 as a three-star prospect the summer before his senior high school season. So he relished the opportunity to get that experience heading into his final collegiate campaign.
    "Every guy out here knows football, and you just try to soak it up," Mannion said. "... If you just listen and see what guys are teaching, you're going to learn easily."
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