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COLLINS, MITCHELL GIVE OREGON STATE QB OPTIONS



CORVALLIS — Seth Collins? Nick Mitchell? Perhaps a combination of both?

Oregon State's quarterback situation will work itself out in time, but for now, things are unsettled with the most important position on the team.

Collins, a true freshman from San Diego, and Mitchell, a redshirt freshman from North Bend, Wash., are listed as '1' and '1A' on the depth chart. Neither has taken a snap at the college level. They split repetitions with the first team Saturday during OSU's first training camp session at Reser Stadium.

"They'll have equal reps to begin with," says Oregon State's first-year head coach, Gary Andersen. "We have some time. We don't have forever."

Offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin isn't inclined to rush a decision as the Beavers prepare for their Sept. 4 opener against Weber State at Reser.

"The ol' ball coach, (South Carolina's) Steve Spurrier, says there's no rule that you have to play one quarterback," Baldwin says. "It's not in the rule books.

"I'm not in a hurry. One guy will take it over, but the other guy will play, too."

Andersen prefers that one of the signal-callers win the job.

"In a perfect world, I'd like to have one quarterback," he says. "If that doesn't happen, it does not scare me to have two quarterbacks. We'll see how it all filters out. We'll be fine, and the quarterback will do a good job for us."

The 6-3, 200-pound Collins has track speed -- he was one of the top prep intermediate hurdlers in Southern California as a junior -- a live arm and plenty of self-confidence, which he displayed in his first meeting with the Oregon press during Friday's media day.

But Collins wasn't willing to declare himself the front-runner for the starting job. He shook his head when asked if it's his job to lose.

"It's nobody's job," he said. "We're competing. (August) camp is going to determine who's on the field. When it's game time, whoever's number is out there taking the snaps, that's who it's going to be."

Andersen has expressed that he was most concerned about Collins' tendency to abandon the pocket and run during spring practice.

"In terms of my decision-making, so far that's been on me," Collins says. "When to slide … that's one thing (coaches) have talked to me about -- the calculated risk in terms of when to run the football and take the contact. They want me to protect my body. They say if I do play, they need me for 12 games, not a good two."

Collins, who graduated early from Granite Hills High and enrolled at OSU for winter term, says he spent the summer "working on every little thing to give me an upper hand in terms of going into camp." He also tried to bond with as many as teammates as possible.

"In terms of chemistry, everything (is important), from throwing the football with them, to going to the lake with them, just hanging with them, talking with them, them getting to know me, how I talk, how they talk," he said. "Just overall communication."

Collins showed a little humor when asked the bodies of water he visited in Oregon this summer.

"Triangle Lake," he said. "And we went to the ol' river over there … I'm still not too sure of all the places yet."

The Willamette?

"Yeah, there you go," Collins said. "If it were a geography class, I'd probably fail."

If he wins the starting nod for the opener, Collins says he will be undaunted by the fact he was playing high school ball a year ago.

"As a freshman, sophomore or junior, your first step on the field is going to be your first step on the field," he says. "Taking my first step on the field the first game of the year don't bother me. It don't scare me."

Typically, a quarterback is a leader of an offense. Typically, a quarterback for a Pac-12 program isn't a true freshman.

"I'd like to say I'm a natural leader," Collins says. "So far, everywhere I've gone, I've done a good job at winning. I plan on doing the same (here).

"As you get older, you learn new things. I'm willing to learn from the older guys and also willing to take on a leadership role. I'm ready to lead to my ability to where coaches want me to lead, whether that's vocal or just playing and being an example."

Andersen was asked how Collins can best win over his teammates.

"Be himself," Andersen says. "You can't pretend to be a leader. You see that all the time. If you're a leader on the team and all you're doing is yelling and screaming, it's like 'help me please' instead of 'hey, let's go.'

"Seth has done a great job with that. Be yourself, understand who you are, and it will all take care of itself. Your teammates will gain respect for you whether you're a quiet leader by the way you work, by the way you carry yourself, by the way you handle your Friday and Saturday nights."

Mitchell, younger brother of OSU starting center Josh Mitchell, has added nearly 20 pounds to his 6-1 frame from a year ago and is now up to "a little over 200." He has a solid arm and a penchant for finding open turf with his legs, too.

The younger Mitchell says the three QBs eligible to play this season -- including No. 3 Marcus McMaryion -- have become friends.

"Off the field, we all hang out," Mitchell says. "We're all looking out for each other's best interests. When we step onto the field, we're going to compete and fight for that starting job. But whoever wins the job, the rest of us will give our full support."

Andersen says both of the candidates are of even temperament and demeanor.

"Seth is not overly soft-spoken," the first-year OSU mentor says. "I'd say he's right in the middle.

Nick is very much like Seth, and it's a great place to live as a quarterback. Nick is a quiet, composed kid, but he's not afraid to correct things when they need to be corrected.

"I think we'll see more of that with the confidence they've gained in the summer with the offense. There were a lot of things going through their heads in those first 15 practices (of spring). The settling from that will allow them to be come better leaders. The quarterback doesn't need to be the leader of the team, but he needs to be respected. They're both very much respected by their teammates."

The veteran players say they have been impressed by both Collins and Mitchell. Senior running back Storm Barrs-Woods mentioned that former OSU QB Sean Mannion -- now a rookie with the St. Louis Rams -- spent time with both this summer.

"They fed off of that," Barrs-Woods says. "The way they've been preparing … they're probably both in the film room right now. They've already shown great leadership. I like they way they're controlling the offense. With their maturity, I'm not worried about them. Whoever's under center is going to be good."

Villamin says leadership isn't predicated on the player's school class.

"It doesn't matter how old you are," says the 6-4, 230-pound sophomore receiver, who caught 35 passes for 578 yards and six touchdowns a year ago.. "There have been some freshman quarterbacks who have led their team. It's not hard for them to do it if they're ready to take on that challenge.

"I don't really care about stats. If I get the ball twice a game and we beat every team, I'm fine. I just want to win. I want to play in a bowl game. I want to play in the big games. I want to be on a national stage. I just want a winner there at quarterback."

The Beavers return 10 starters on offense -- everybody but Mannion and receiver Richard Mullaney, who has transferred to Alabama.

"Having all those tools makes it easier for us, rather than having to fill a lot of spots," Mitchell says. "We have lots of experience at every (other) position. It's made the transition easier for us (QBs)."

Andersen says the talent is there with both Collins and Mitchell.

"They're both in a spot to continually progress," he says. "They both have the ability to run the ball. They both have the ability to be a quarterback at this level. We'll just have to see how it all comes out when they start playing."

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