Every time Oregon State offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf steps into his office, quarterback Sean Mannion has settled into his seat at the desk watching game film.
At least that’s how it seems to Langsdorf.
“He’s in my office all the time,” Langsdorf said. “I can’t hardly sit down in my own chair, he’s in there so much.”
Not that Langsdorf minds at all. That’s exactly what he wants out of a quarterback.
Mannion spends hours in Langsdorf’s office or the meeting room in an effort to improve.
“We love having him around, and the more he watches film and the more he soaks up what we’re doing the better he’s going to be,” Langsdorf said.
Much is expected out of Mannion this season.
Not only is he the incumbent QB for the Beavers, but he’s about to embark on his second season as a starter.
That’s typically when a quarterback is expected to make a quantum leap in his understanding of how to run the system.
The signs are already there.
“He is just a sophomore, but like every starting quarterback that has gone through here, that year of playing there’s a lot of learning and it’s very beneficial, but the following year is the one where you can really make some strides,” Langsdorf said.
“You’ve got experience playing the games and having a better understanding of what we’re doing is really important. I think he is light years ahead of where he was at this time last year.”
Langsdorf said Mannion is playing faster, both in his execution of plays and decision making.
It’s a strong indication that Mannion is playing with confidence that comes with experience.
“He’s got a better understanding of where to go with the ball, the ball comes out quicker, he’s got a great command of our offense and our huddle,” Langsdorf said. “He’s directing traffic, he’s getting us into the right run in the run game, he’s distributing the ball to the right receivers.”
On paper, any improvement over last season’s performance would seem unlikely.
Mannion completed 305 of 473 passes and finished with 3,328-yard passing, third all-time at OSU, and completed 64.5 percent of his throws.
Mannion knows there’s plenty to work on.
There were those 18 interceptions, for example.
He ticked a few items off his list: Footwork. Accuracy. Decision making.
“I think just with any position, you get more time and you get more and more comfortable and the game slows down,” Mannion said. “I think what comes along with that is just better decision making, better accuracy, that kind of thing.”
Markus Wheaton was the target on many of Mannion’s passes last season.
Wheaton witnessed Mannion’s progression and said he heated up near the end of the season.
“His anticipation, his confidence, his everything had just grown so fast as a freshman. So who knows what he can do this year?” Wheaton said. “I think his improvement might be even greater than other guys in the past.”
There was a lot to take in for a true freshman starting quarterback last season.
Mannion was thrust into a quarterback controversy with 2010 starter Ryan Katz at the start of the season.
When Mannion stepped in and threw for 244 yards in the second game at Wisconsin, the job was his.
“Sean finally came into it but he was really young,” OSU senior tight end Colby Prince said. “It takes time to fit into that role. Having him start the rest of the season and then really come into the offseason knowing that he’s going to be the quarterback allowed him to step into that role and gave us a lot of time to work with him.
“Just seeing him evolve to where we can open up the playbook is huge. He’s so smart, he’s so dedicated, always in the film room. And you can see, he’s so football smart. It’s easy to trust him.”
Mannion’s teammates were so impressed with his willingness to work that they voted him one of the team captains.
It’s an honor Mannion does not take lightly.
He knows that the mere title of captain does not make him a great leader.
“I was appointed captain, but I think it’s something that you have to kind of become,” he said. “No one’s going to just say, ‘Oh, this guy’s a leader,’ and then suddenly he is. It’s something that you kind of prove to your teammates, you prove to the rest of your team through the course of the season in practice. Being named a captain is a part of it, but I think that there’s a long way to go.”