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Sean Mannion on target for big senior season with Oregon State

Photo Credit: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Senior QB Sean Mannion, now weighing 230 pounds, could become the Pac-12's all-time career passing yardage leader this season. Think you've had a good summer so far?

It's probably been nothing compared to that of quarterback Sean Mannion as he prepares for his senior season at Oregon State.

The 6-5 Mannion, who threw for a Pac-12 record 4,662 yards along with 37 touchdowns as a junior, was invited to participate as counselor at two prestigious high school summer camps this month -- the Nike Elite 11 in Beaverton and the Manning Passing Academy in Thibodaux, La. All the son of Silverton High coach John Mannion did was win passing competitions among college counselors at both camps.

First, Mannion ruled a "Counselors Challenge" passing skills contest among the six college QBs -- including Utah's Travis Wilson -- at the three-day Nike camp run by former NFL signal-caller Trent Dilfer.

Then Mannion prevailed among more than 40 collegians in the "Air-It-Out Challenge" at the Manning Academy, beating South Alabama's Brandon Bridge by hitting nine of nine targets in the finals. A half-dozen Pac-12 QBs were there, including Oregon's Marcus Mariota, who was eliminated in the first round, and Southern Cal's Cody Kessler.

Mannion, ranked by Mel Kiper as the nation's No. 2 senior quarterback heading into the fall, owns 11 OSU passing records. His current completion rate of 65.3 percent is on pace to set a school career mark. Mannion, 22, ranks 10th on the Pac-12 career list with 10,436 passing yardage. He needs 814 yards to break Derek Anderson's school record (11,249) and 1,890 yards to better the Pac-12 standard held by Southern Cal's Matt Barkley (12,327).

The Beavers' team leader and co-captain sat down with the Portland Tribune for an interview as he looked ahead to the Aug. 4 start of training camp.

Tribune: How has the summer gone for you?

Mannion: It's been great. A lot of lifting, throwing and running. Just trying to do stuff every day to improve.

Tribune: How was the experience serving as a counselor at the Nike Elite 11 camp?

Mannion: Awesome. I hadn't had the opportunity to go as a high school kid. There were some of the top high school quarterbacks in the country. It was really exciting, a great environment there for competitive quarterback play. There were a lot of great coaches working with them, including Trent. I learned a lot there.

Tribune: What were your duties?

Mannion: The counselors hung out around the high school kids. When they were going through drills, we'd hop in with them and take some reps in different drills. We answered a lot of questions from them, too. It was a high school event, but (the organizers) did a great job making sure the college guys got something out of it as well. We worked out and competed with each other.

Tribune: And then you won the counselors' passing challenge.

Mannion: I was excited about that. I felt good about how I threw there. I wanted to win and play well. It was fun to get to know the other college guys and compete with them.

Tribune: What was the Manning Academy like?

Mannion: That was a bit different, because there were so many more people involved. There were 1,200 campers and a lot of college guys (serving as counselors). Each of us took a team and worked with our own group. I was happy I won (the passing challenge) there. I'm a competitive guy. When I get out there and start throwing, I want to win. I threw really well and got a lot out of it.

Tribune: How much time did you get with Peyton and Eli Manning?

Mannion: That's what was really great. We got a bunch of time hanging around with both of them. That was really exciting, really special. Those are two guys I've looked up to for a long time. When you think of greatness at quarterback, you think of those two. They're great guys, real approachable. I got to ask them a lot of questions and talk to them about football. The approach they take on the field is so meticulous. Both on and off the field, they are so focused in everything they do. That's what struck me the most with every meeting, every drill, every rep.

Tribune: Have you at all second-guessed your decision to return for your senior year?

Mannion: No I haven't. I thought hard about the NFL (after last season), but after deciding to come back, I haven't looked back once. I'm trying make this my best offseason, and I think I've done that. I've accomplished a lot. It's been an awesome decision for me.

Tribune: What would it mean to become the Pac-12's all-time leader in passing yardage?

Mannion: I'm not consumed with stats or records, but it would be really special. Look at the guys high on that list -- Andrew Luck, Carson Palmer, John Elway, Aaron Rodgers. To be mentioned in the same breath with them is special. For me personally, it's more about reflecting on all the players I've played with who have been a part of that. I've gotten to throw to guys like James Rodgers and Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks. Not many college quarterbacks get that kind of opportunity.

Tribune: Do you feel like you've improved as a quarterback since the end of last season?

Mannion: Definitely. I've continued to develop physically. I'm more accurate with my throws. I've been working a lot with my feet. I know I can improve in every area, so there's been a lot of stuff to address. I feel good about my progress. I think about where I was at this time last year, two years ago … I'm light years ahead.

Tribune: What do you weigh now?

Mannion: I'm about 230.

Tribune: You're a beast.

Mannion: (laughs) It's the biggest I've been. I feel good.

Tribune: How do you like working with John Garrett as offensive coordinator?

Mannion: He's been great. The first thing that strikes you about Coach Garrett is he's very smart. He knows a lot of football. He's really experienced. Working with him in the spring was great. I'm getting a feel for the way he coaches on the field. It's been great to develop a relationship with him on and off the field.

Tribune: Do you think there will be many changes in the offense next season?

Mannion: It will be the same system. There will be a few new wrinkles. He's going to add and cut out a few things. He brings a fresh perspective on my game and will be good for me and for our offense as a whole. We'll see what works and what we need to tweak a little.

Tribune: How have summer workouts gone in Corvallis?

Mannion: Everyone is moving in the same direction, trying to improve. I work with the receivers, but have also tried to work with everyone as a group and focus on executing plays with the whole offense. That's been beneficial for us.

Tribune: What are your goals for next season?

Mannion: As a team, we want to win the conference, play in the Rose Bowl and win it. I've said that every year. If we are setting our sights any lower, something's wrong. Personally, I want to continue to do all the things to help my team win, and continue to grow as a player. I want to be more accurate, take care of the football. I want to make improvements in all areas.

Tribune: How good will the Beavers be?

Mannion: It sounds like a cliche, but we have to take it one game at a time. We haven't done the best job of that in the past. If we look at every week as a Super Bowl, then I don't see any reason we can't play well enough to win the conference. That would be a great way to go out as a Beaver.

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