Beavers open fall camp hoping to build on last season's success

Quarterback Sean Mannion took the first snap when fall football practice opened for Oregon State.

Don't read too much into that.

The quarterback competition between Mannion and Cody Vaz will be closely watched over the next months as the Beavers prepare for the season.

Coach Mike Riley says he's going to see how camp goes before selecting his starter, but realizes he's in an enviable position of having two quarterbacks who can do the job.

Both players traded off often last season when the Beavers went 9-4 and finished third in the Pac-12 North.

Riley says he's lucky he has two players who can capably do the job. His staff will likely have to project which QB will be the most consistent.

"It's not an easy deal, but it's still a good thing," Riley said in preparation for camp, which opened Monday.

Mannion told reporters after practice that he's prepared for the scrutiny.

"It's part of the territory," he said. "I'm just going out there and trying to be the best player I can be."

Mannion started Oregon State's first four games last season, averaging 339.5 yards passing a game, which at the time ranked him sixth in the nation.

But the 6-foot-5 quarterback injured his left knee and required arthroscopic surgery, and that meant that Vaz would make his first start since high school.

Vaz competently stepped in and won the next two games, giving the Beavers their best start since they also went 6-0 in 1907. Oregon State climbed to No. 7 in the AP's Top 25, its best ranking since 2001.

In the end, Mannion threw for 2,446 yards and 15 touchdowns, with 13 interceptions in 10 appearances.

Vaz, who was hampered down the stretch by an injury to his left ankle, threw for 1,480 yards and 11 touchdowns, with three interceptions while appearing in seven games.

Both were instrumental in turning around a team that had gone just 3-9 in 2011. It was the greatest season-to-season improvement in school history.

"I was even bold enough a year ago to say I had a good vibe about this team, but that was about as far as I would go," Riley said. "Because you never know how it's going to go."

The Beavers lost two key contributors from last season's team, receiver Markus Wheaton and cornerback Jordan Poyer.

Wheaton, who was a third-round selection by Pittsburgh in the NFL draft, caught 11 touchdown passes and averaged 95.7 yards receiving a game. Poyer, a seventh-round selection by the Philadelphia Eagles, had seven interceptions and was an All-American.

Junior Brandin Cooks, who caught five TD passes and averaged 88.5 yards a game, will likely take over as the Beavers' top receiver.

Other players Riley is hoping will see time at the position include sophomore Richard Mullaney and junior Obum Gwacham.

Riley said he would like to see Oregon State improve its running game — a tradition was established by the likes of former Beavers Ken Simonton, Steven Jackson and Jacquizz Rodgers.

The two players who appear most likely to step into a productive role are Storm Woods and Terron Ward.

Ward was so bold as to say this past spring that the duo is aiming to run for 1,000 yards apiece this season, which would be a first for a tandem in Oregon State history.

The Beavers open the season Aug. 31 at home against Eastern Washington.