Mannion's understudies compete for No. 2 spot
CORVALLIS — When a football team has an established starting quarterback, the focus turns to the backup spot.
With Sean Mannion entrenched as the starter after passing for a Pacific-12 Conference record 4,662 yards with 37 touchdowns, the quarterback situation at Oregon State is in good hands.
Competition for No. 2 has been in full swing this fall.
The two main candidates are Luke Del Rio, a redshirt freshman transfer from Alabama, and sophomore Brent VanderVeen.
Redshirt freshman Kyle Kempt is also in the mix.
“It’s been going good,” Del Rio said. “It’s getting towards the end because we’re about to start playing games, but I think competition’s good. It brings out the best in both of the guys, makes them compete.
“Everything becomes sort of a game-like situation because you are competing and you’re trying to win a job. I think it’s a healthy relationship and it’s going well so far.”
Del Rio said he’s played well in fall camp for the most part, but needs to become more consistent.
“That comes with reps and experience and more time in the playbook and just more time in the offense,” he said. “But I need to be more consistent with everything, my feet, my reads, my throws.
“So that’s the biggest thing for me.”
VanderVeen agreed that the competition has helped both players.
They have to stay sharp day in and day out and avoid any major slip-ups.
“We have to bring our A game every day and we can’t have an off day, but it’s been nice,” VanderVeen said.
VanderVeen said he’s made some big strides in the fall.
“I feel like I’ve grown a lot as far as just reads and throwing the ball accurately,” he said. “I feel like I’ve grown a lot.”
There’s no animosity between any of the quarterbacks.
VanderVeen said all the QBs spend quite a bit of time together in fall camp between practices and meetings.
They have time for some fun as well.
“We’ve been having this competition after night practices,” VanderVeen said. “Whoever hits the crossbar first (from the 40-yard line), the other five quarterbacks have to do pushups.”
True freshmen Nick Mitchell and Marcus McMaryion have shown their athletic ability this fall.
Mannion said both freshmen have jumped right in to learn the offense.
“They’ve taken pride in asking questions and being very attentive to our offense,” Mannion said.
“I think it’s probably fair to say that they’re both going to be running the scout team and I think it’s great to see that in spite of that, they’re still putting in the effort to learn our offense, because that’s a challenge.”
No matter where Del Rio, VanderVeen, Kempt and the two freshmen land on the depth chart, they have the advantage of playing with Mannion.
As a fifth-year senior, Mannion has the experience along with the ability that makes for a strong role model for the younger quarterbacks.
“It’s always good to watch how it’s supposed to be done and most of the time, Sean does it the way it’s supposed to be done,” OSU offensive coordinator John Garrett said.