Nov. 10, 2009
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher said the strongest quality quarterbacks Christian Ponder and EJ Manuel share is their accountability. Each is an outstanding student, who understands the importance of working hard.
Manuel will lean on those qualities Saturday when he makes his first start in place of Ponder, who is out for the season with a shoulder injury. The Seminoles travel to Wake Forest for a game that carries significant postseason implications for two teams that have struggled to win close games.
Manuel said it’s an opportunity he has been anxiously awaiting, “but I hate that Christian had to get hurt for it to happen.”
Ponder, who will be facing shoulder surgery soon, will make the trip with the Seminoles to help Manuel’s transition from back-up to starter, replacing the ACC leader in passing and total offense. Watching Ponder’s development has been beneficial to the 19-year-old redshirt freshman.
“Christian led by just having good examples; by his performance on the field,” Manuel said, when asked about his own leadership qualities. “A lot of things, he didn’t have to say. He just put it out on the field and the guys followed him.”
To that end, Manuel said he will happily lean on his offensive line and skilled players to get the job done against the Demon Deacons.
“Whatever I can do to move the ball down the field and give these guys a chance to make plays is what I’m going to do,” said Manuel, who got a taste of working with the first-team offense last week while Ponder nursed his sore ribs. “I prepared like I was going to start.”
Manuel added that he feels “way more comfortable” this week, executing an FSU offense which will undoubtedly be tailored by Fisher toward to the things he does best and feels most comfortable with.
Both Bobby Bowden and Fisher came away from Tuesday’s rainy practice encouraged by what they had seen from the youngster in his second full day as the starter.
“He is making good progress,” Bowden said of Manuel. “Jimbo is trying to be sure we’re running stuff he can handle and trying to find out what he handles best. I think he’s done a good good.”
Most of all, Bowden really likes that both Ponder and Manuel are “excellent character boys.
“They listen good and take coaching good,” Bowden added. “[Manuel] has got everything but the experience.”
Fisher came away from practice equally encouraged by the way the offense stepped up collectively.
“I thought we had a good practice,” Fisher said. “Our kids were pretty focused. Our attitude was good. Our work ethic was good and our execution was pretty good. It wasn’t bad. We did some good things.”
Though Fisher understands Manuel will go through some anxious moments on the field in his first start – he’s played all of 11 snaps and is 1 of 4 passing for four yards – he expects the youngster to be ready for the challenge.
“What will help him is he does prepare,” Fisher said. “The thing you’ve got to be careful of is don’t let the anxiety of wanting to play so bad overcome him. … I think his personality, the way he prepares and just his nature, will help him. He’ll make sure he dots the I’s and crosses the T’s.”
Those things come naturally for Manuel.
“That just comes from how I was raised; just worry about what is most important and the task at hand,” Manuel said. “I’m not looking down the line trying to get into a bowl game. … I think everything will fall in place if I just take care of what is most important right now.”