- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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Of all the great unknowns in the Pac-12, Oregon State is the greatest -- because we haven't seen them play a game yet.
But all eyes will be on Beavers' quarterback Sean Mannion, thought to be a rising star in the conference after showing flashes of significant talent in his first season as a redshirt freshman. The buzz is that he's matured physically and mentally -- and that he's got a stronger grasp of the offense.
He certainly fits the mold for a Mike Riley quarterback, standing at 6-foot-5, 215 pounds. Mannion ran hot and cold in his first season as the starter, officially taking the role in Week 3 of last season. He'd throw four touchdowns in a game, and then four interceptions in a game. He earned Freshman All-America honors, but also ended the year with more interceptions than touchdowns -- a 16-to-18 ratio. Then again, he also threw for 3,328 yards and completed 64.5 percent of his throws.
Naturally, not all of those interceptions were his fault. You take a first-time starter, get him sacked 27 times and finish last in the conference rushing attack and the rook is bound to make a few mistakes. But the Pac-12 blog is banking on a lot of that to change this season.
Historically, second-year quarterbacks do better in Riley's system, so we'll see if that's the case with Mannion. Riley made known his conviction to repair the rushing attack, and Mannion has a very good receiver in Brandin Cooks and a potentially great receiver in Markus Wheaton.
It's a tough assignment to start the year against Wisconsin, but like many, the Pac-12 blog is excited to see how far Mannion has come and how far he can go.