- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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Coach Mike Riley announced Tuesday that the job now belongs to redshirt freshman Sean Mannion.
The Beavers are 0-2 and have looked bad getting there. But this decision was rooted in spring practices when Mannion showed promise while Katz was hurt, and it came down to pure competition.
Mannion has consistently outplayed Katz in practice as well as during the 0-2 start.
"It was fairly early in camp," Riley said when asked when he first considered Mannion potentially eclipsing Katz on the depth chart.
Mannion, 6-foot-5, 218 pounds, first replaced Katz in the opener against Sacramento State, a shocking 29-28 home defeat to an FCS team. While Katz started at Wisconsin, Mannion played nearly the entire game.
In two games, Mannion produced a 131.0 efficiency rating. Katz was at 78.9. Mannion completed 66 percent of his passes with no interceptions. Katz completed 52 percent with one pick.
Katz, a big-armed junior, passed for 2,401 yards and 18 touchdowns with 11 interceptions in 2010 and seemed poised for a breakthrough this fall. But it quickly became clear that Riley and his offensive coaches believe that Mannion has more present and future potential running the Beavers offense.
It doesn't appear Katz is taking the change very well, which is understandable but could become an issue in the locker room. You'd think if anyone can calm Katz, it would be Riley, as light a touch as there is in college coaching. But Riley also knows that situations like this can become divisive, which he'd likely move quickly to quash.
The Beavers have a bye this week to complete the transition. They will play host to UCLA on Sept. 24.
Mannion's job now is to win over his teammates and the locker room. He needs to inspire confidence over the next two weeks of practice. And then he needs to justify his coaches' decision with his performance. It will help that he'll get tight end Joe Halahuni back and, perhaps, receiver James Rodgers. That should significantly bolster the passing game.
For Katz, he'll have to decide if he wants to stick around or transfer.
Of course, it's entirely possible we haven't seen the last of him this season. If Mannion falters, or if he gets hurt, then Katz could get another chance.