Just five days from opening against Eastern Washington, Oregon State football coach Mike Riley made a big revelation.
Last season, he vacillated between quarterbacks Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz. This year, the same.
On Monday, Riley announced Mannion would be the starter against the pesky Eagles.
The long-tenured, soft-speaking Riley is not alone in the Pacific-12 Conference with a fluctuating quarterback situation.
At Arizona, Rich Rodriguez used Matt Scott in 2012 to run his up-tempo spread offense. Scott flourished in his only season under Rodriguez. He threw for 3,620 yards and ran for 506.
When it was his turn to choose Monday, Rodriguez dispatched a depth chart that listed three possible starters at quarterback. He has been disgruntled by the offense through fall camp.
“We have some talented guys,” Rodriguez said. “B.J. Decker got some great experience last year, Jesse Scroggins was hurt all spring, so we have some unknowns there, and other guys in the program and freshmen coming in.
“The talent is going to be there. What’s going to be critical for us as coaches is putting those guys in different situations to see who emerges, and we might not know the answer by the first couple of games.”
USC coach Lane Kiffin said he “anticipates” using Max Wittek and Cody Kessler in the Trojans’ opener against Hawaii on Thursday. Both third-year sophomores backed up Matt Barkley last season. Wittek threw 69 passes. Kessler threw two.
Kiffin did not elaborate, saying only that the two would rotate possession, not alternate during the same possession.
In Pullman, Washington State coach Mike Leach has nominated Connor Halliday as his starter. Halliday shared duties with Jeff Tuel last year, and it was almost an even split. Halliday threw 290 passes to Tuel’s 333.
Leach, however, would prefer one quarterback throughout the season.
“The most significant role that a quarterback plays is enhancing the skills of the other players around him,” Leach said.
At California, new coach Sonny Dykes thrust 18-year-old Jared Goff into the starting spot. The two quarterbacks who split time for the Bears last year — Zach Maynard and Allan Bridgford — are gone. That leaves Goff as the Bears’ first true freshman starting quarterback.
Splitting time at quarterback often was a harbinger of bad results last season in the Pac-12.
WSU was 3-9 overall. Cal also went 3-9 and fired coach Jeff Tedford. Utah quarterbacks shared snaps, and the Utes went 3-6 in conference play.
Things are much more settled elsewhere in the conference.
Oregon and UCLA tout two of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the country in sophomores Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley.
Washington has fifth-year senior Keith Price, and Stanford has Kevin Hogan, who proved to be more than capable last year when he took over for Josh Nunes. Arizona State’s Taylor Kelly threw for 3,039 yards and 29 touchdowns last season.
“We went through a lot of different things about it for a long period of time. Had a hard time at that point separating them,” Riley said of the quarterback competition. “That’s good.” Most times, it’s not.