Oregon State's Sean Mannion has been described as the prototypical quarterback.
He looks the part with a 6-foot-5, 218-pound frame, strong arm and All-American poster boy looks a marketing department can use as the face of a program.
More importantly, Mannion has performed on the field at an advanced level for a redshirt freshman.
"Once in a while we are reminded of him being young," coach Mike Riley said. "When you are getting ready for a game, he's focused. He's mature."
Mannion will enter his eighth game Saturday afternoon at Utah as one of the most productive passers in the Pacific-12 Conference. He ranks fourth with an average of 280.6 yards a game.
He has thrown for at least 200 yards in six straight games and is on track to be the third-best single-season passer in OSU history with 3,367 yards.
Derek Anderson holds the top two marks of 4,058 yards in 2003 and 3,615 in 2004.
Mannion has no goals of breaking records, he just wants to be a team player.
"I'm just happy for the win last game," Mannion said. "You can always improve in all you do. That's all I'm trying to do."
Mannion is more than completions and yards. He possesses all the intangibles to play the position. So there's a huge upside with his physical tools.
Quarterbacks must know the offense better than anyone else and distribute the ball to the right receiver depending on the play, situation and what the defense shows.
"All that can be enhanced, but part of that is a feel and vision," Riley said. "Some guys have a broad vision and can tell you what is going on with the defense. Sean is like that."
Riley was impressed with how quickly Mannion understood the concepts of OSU's pro-style philosophy and scheme that he asked him to make several split-second decisions before and during the play.
During the summer, Riley noticed Mannion's devotion to studying game film. Gaining that knowledge of the opponent has helped him stay calm during stressful situations.
"You can always learn a little more and see it on film, and the film study helps you out a lot," Mannion said. "I just wanted to come into fall camp as prepared as I could be. You have a lot of free time outside of lifting in the summer and I wanted to take advantage of it."
Riley went with a rookie quarterback full-time after Mannion was tested in the first two games of the season.
There was shock and criticism because OSU had a strong-armed returning starter in Ryan Katz. Katz was productive his first year and had high expectations this season.
However, Katz wasn't able to perform in the spring after breaking his hand in last year's Civil War. That gave Mannion more opportunity to impress the coaches.
Katz didn't do anything wrong, but his injury was a case of bad timing.
"It certainly did," Riley said of the injury hurting Katz. "It was nothing Ryan can control. It wasn't what Ryan did or didn't do, but it was this guy's growth in the program."
Riley watched the video of spring practice multiple times during the summer and realized Mannion could play as a freshman. His decisions were quick and accurate.
The Beavers scrimmaged during the spring and August's training camp more than they've done in the past. That allowed Riley to learn about Mannion's ability and poise.
"I knew going in he was going to be ready," Riley said. "The more I watched (the scrimmage video) the more impressed I was. We got a feel for who he was during that practice time. By the end we knew we had to play this guy."
Katz played well in his limited opportunities, but when Mannion performed to Riley's liking better, he took over the starting job.
"We had to trust it was competition," Riley said. "We had to let it play out and made a decision. It wasn't something we were looking to happen or wanted to happen, it just hit us between the eyes."
Then it was a question of whether Mannion could handle the pressure week to week. And for every misstep, Riley was questioned about the move.
Mannion has thrown 10 interceptions, fumbled and made bad reads.
However, there have been plenty of stellar plays. His quick decisions helped avoid sacks and kept the Beavers in games when a regular running game was non-existent.
"It's slowing down a bit," Mannion said of how he sees plays develop. "It's still fast. It's Pac-12 football, but each game you get more comfortable and it slows down."
Mannion, while not a mobile quarterback, can move in the pocket to buy time to find a receiver. Several times, Mannion has sidestepped a rusher or moved up in the pocket to hit a secondary target.
Riley credits that to his ability to not look for the rush and keep his eyes downfield looking for receivers.
Mannion says he works on it each play in practice, but there's a feel to it that he possesses.
"Sean has a great feel for the rush," Riley said. "He slides and moves. That's a great quality. That position, to play well, takes courage. Normal people don't do that with a 290-pounder coming down on you."