Oct. 20, 2011
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Yesterday during his weekly appearance on the ACC Football Coaches Teleconference, Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher answered a question about the health status of starting quarterback EJ Manuel.
From an FSU fan’s perspective, his answer was a good one. From a Maryland fan’s perspective, not so much.
“He’s getting pretty close,” Fisher said. “There’s always a little one there, you know what I mean, but he ran the ball and did everything, and he’s pretty close to 100 percent.”
Seminoles.com Senior Writer
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After being knocked out of the game the last time the Seminoles played inside Doak Campbell Stadium on Sept. 17, Manuel hadn’t been himself for quite some time. The sprain to his left shoulder sidelined him for the Clemson game and he only played against Wake Forest in relief of Clint Trickett because at the time it was absolutely necessary.
In that loss to the Demon Deacons, Manuel still wasn’t “right.” He was rusty throwing the football and didn’t use his legs like he normally does to compliment what he typically does in the passing game.
In the win over Duke, that changed. Against the Blue Devils a healthy Manuel ran for 64 yards and threw for 239, including three beautiful deep completions.
It was the Manuel of old and it’s not a coincidence that the FSU offense operated smoother than it had all season long.
“I mean, you can say it all you want, but using your quarterback and a guy of his caliber really affects your team, compounded with all the other injuries and things,” Fisher said. “But he does erase a lot of mistakes with his legs and his ability to make plays with his leadership and toughness. That was one great game. Hopefully he can play at that level all year. He was playing very well when he got hurt. But he’s a big cog, and he’s a great addition to get back, that’s for sure.”
Credit Devonta Freeman with having a breakout game from his tailback spot but FSU’s best running game of the year had a lot to do with Manuel and his ability to move the chains with the ball in his hands.
Perhaps more so than any Seminoles quarterback in recent memory, Manuel has the uncanny ability to run the football and find the open lanes in the defense so smoothly sometimes that it appears as though he’s not even trying. He’s also adept at keeping his eyes down field — much like his predecessor Christian Ponder — and not giving up on the pass until the very last second.
It’s a deadly duo of skills to possess but it also comes at a price. The more Manuel carries the ball, the more likely he is to take a big hit. The Oklahoma game is a perfect example of that as his shoulder injury occurred at the conclusion of a run.
Manuel, however, says not to worry.
“I have always been good at falling,” Manuel said. “Even with my injury it was just a freak accident. If the guy hadn’t fallen on top of me I never would have hurt my shoulder. I am pretty good as far as falling when I am running and setting up my own tackles and things like that so that the defensive guy can’t get a kill-shot. So I am pretty good at that.”
Not only did last weekend provide a look at the return of Manuel, it also gave a glimpse of what had been an unused page in the playbook prior to the trip to Durham, N.C.
Manuel’s improved health allowed Fisher and offensive coordinator James Coley the luxury of including more option plays in the gameplan. It’s an added offensive attack that presents different matchup problems for FSU’s opponents as Manuel has the decision to take the ball up field or pitch it to his teammates.
“It’s fun. I enjoy it because you can get out on the edge and a lot of times those [defenders] that are coming down you can sometimes give them a slight little pump out to the running back and then just cut it up if you want to,” Manuel said. “It’s a true option. I feel like I can do whatever I want when I am out on the edge.”
Just like Manuel’s return to full health, his confidence in his ability to make plays isn’t good news for Maryland.
The Terrapins travel to Tallahassee for Saturday’s game as a team that last weekend allowed Clemson’s Tajh Boyd the opportunity to throw for 270 yards and four touchdowns and rush for another 37.