July 28, 2011
Seminoles.com Senior Writer
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — One of the common themes at the 2011 ACC Football Kickoff in Pinehurst, NC was the media contingency’s overall positive impression of Florida State student-athletes EJ Manuel and Brandon Jenkins and the FSU team as a whole.
It turns out that many of the Seminoles’ opponents share a similar sentiment.
As the player representatives, Manuel, Jenkins and the 22 student-athletes from the 11 other league-member schools were charged with answering countless numbers of questions about the upcoming season, their teammates, life on and off the field and so on and so on.
It was not uncommon for writers, TV reporters and radio hosts to ask these types of questions as well as inquire about their thoughts and feelings on other teams and players in the ACC as well. And when the question of FSU would arise, there were quite a few glowing comments from some of the league’s top players.
“Florida State always has a lot of really good athletes,” NC State tight end George Bryan said. “The defense, I would say, probably is one of the hardest I have ever faced because of the linebacking crew because of how athletic everyone is on defense. For myself as a tight end to get open it’s a good test.”
Bryan’s thoughts on the linebacker corps was also shared by an another offensive player in Wake Forest’s Joe Looney.
The Demon Deacons’ senior guard said that the Seminoles are defined not just by a strong group of ‘backers and a speedy secondary but by a fundamentally sound defensive line.
“They don’t let offensive linemen get their hands on them right off the bat,” Looney said. “If they do, they have quick feet to move around. Even some of the bigger defensive linemen they’e got down there move great. It just presents challenges when you’re an offensive lineman with your kick-slides and where you place your hands. You’ve got to be real strategic with that stuff so you don’t get beat by them.”
One player that was especially gracious when talking about the ‘Noles while at the media days was Jonathan Powell, who is a starter at guard for North Carolina.
Powell, who played for the Tar Heels team that escaped Tallahassee with a two-point win last season, said he feels that FSU has a pair of defenders that are the two most dynamic players in the entire ACC.
“I was actually talking to [ESPN.com ACC Blogger] Heather Dinich and she was asking who was the most explosive player in the ACC,” Powell said. “The first guy that came to mind was Greg Reid. I remember with the kickoff we had [FSU] down by two points or something and a few seconds left in the [2010 game] and he almost ran back the return and they had a chance to win with a field goal. Him and Brandon Jenkins. My left tackle, he was an All-American coming out of high school, James Hurst; all he does is tell me about how good Brandon Jenkins is and his spin move how nasty it is.
“I have met Brandon and he is a really great guy and he’s a great player.”
Not to be outdone, the FSU offense — Manuel, in particular — generated its fair share of glowing comments as well.
Virginia Tech safety Eddie Whitley, who was not shy in voicing his opinion that the road to the ACC Championship goes through the Hokies, talked about playing against the Seminoles last year and Manuel’s performance in the conference title game as the replacement for then-starter Christian Ponder.
“[Manuel] was thrown into the fire when he had to play us,” Whitley said. “We didn’t know it and [Manuel] probably didn’t know it that Ponder wasn’t going to play. Everybody knows he’s from Virginia and is a Virginia kid so a lot of guys on my team knew him, knew his athletic ability and knew his potential that he has. He has a good arm and I feel like he will be successful at Florida State. He’s a pretty good athlete so he’s going to be one of those guys that’s going to be hard to stop but we are going to have to figure something out.”
While the players answered questions on Sunday at Pinehurst, the league’s coaches ran the same “gauntlet” from each media station (print, TV, radio) on Monday.
Whitely’s head coach, longtime Virginia Tech boss Frank Beamer, had a similar opinion on the “Virginia kid.”
“I think he’s good,” Beamer said about Manuel. “He was good in high school in Virginia and he’s good for Florida State. He’s got athletic ability and can throw the football. There’s no question about his ability.”
Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe took it one step further in his assessment of Manuel’s impending impact on the Seminoles.
“I think Florida State’s got the kind of quarterback that can lead them to the national championship,” Grobe said.
Of course there’s still a lot of work for the Seminoles to do and each of the coaches’ and players’ feelings about FSU aren’t as willingly shared once the season gets started and it becomes a fight to the finish-line in Charlotte, NC for the Dr. Pepper ACC Championship Game on Dec. 3.
But heading into a 2011 season in which the Seminoles are predicted by the media to win the conference, its important to remember that FSU is a force that the ACC’s coaches and players are well aware of. Now the team just has to go out and continue to play that way.
“They are well coached and they’ve got great players and great tradition,” Boston College coach Frank Spaziani said about the ‘Noles. “They get your attention all the time. They are certainly cycling on the upswing. The arrow is pointing north for them.”