Sean Mannion, with degree in hand, could have easily taken the money and run off to the NFL instead of returning for his senior season.
Not that the money was an important factor.
Oregon State’s quarterback tested the NFL draft waters following his redshirt junior season. On Monday, he decided he would spend one more season donning the Orange and Black and leading the Beavers as he hopes to improve his draft stock.
“As it went on I felt better and better about returning to OSU for my senior season,” he said during a conference call Monday.
That is good news — very good news — for Beaver Nation.
Had Mannion opted to enter the draft, the Beavers would have lost three players — receiver Brandin Cooks and Scott Crichton announced last week they would forgo their senior seasons — early to the NFL.
Instead, OSU returns a leader at a key position to help to the Beavers bounce back from a disappointing 7-6 campaign that saw them lose their final five regular-season games before knocking off Boise State in the Hawaii Bowl.
Like last season, one of the biggest question marks will be replacing a wide receiver who is in the NFL.
Last year, it was who fill in for Markus Wheaton? Now it will be, who will replace Cooks, the 2013 Biletnikoff Award winner as the nation’s top receiver?
While Cooks filled that void and them some last season with school and Pac-12 records for catches (120) and receiving yards (1,760), don’t expect a similar performance.
“It will be a challenge, there’s no getting around it,” Mannion said. “... We’re not going to replace Brandin Cooks with another Brandin Cooks, there’s just no way.
“But what we will do is we’ll have more guys, wether it’s one guy or several, who will step into that void.”
Mannion said he has confidence in Richard Mullaney, Malik Gilmore and Victor Bolden, as well as the players who redshirted this past season.
“I think whether it’s one guy or several, our team as an offense will kind of fill that void somehow,” Mannion said.
Mannion is also confident other areas will improve as well.
“I think our team has a lot of outstanding players,” he said. “And certainly every year there’s going to be new guys who are going to have to step into bigger roles.”
He likes what he saw this past season in that regard.
“From what I’ve seen from the young guys and from the guys who are coming off a redshirt year and some guys who have gotten some chances to play, I feel really good about our team as a whole,” he said.
The offensive line could be a question mark as the Beavers lose starters Michael Philipp, Grant Enger and Josh Andrews.
True freshman Sean Harlow started nine games with redshirt freshman Grant Bays making three starts.
Isaac Seumalo, recovering from a broken foot, will be a third-year starter as a junior and fellow juniors Josh Mitchell (three starts), who had shoulder surgery and will miss spring practice, and Gavin Andrews will be in the mix, among others.
Both Storm Woods and Terron Ward are back at the running back spot as well as a solid group of tight ends.
“We return a lot of pieces and I think that’s an exciting thing for me to get to be a part of it next year,” Mannion said.