When word spread that Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel was held out of Thursday’s practice because he had tweaked an ankle, one can only imagine the concern that flooded Seminole Nation.
Manuel dealt with injuries a year ago, beginning with the home loss to No. 1 Oklahoma in a game that was supposed to serve as FSU’s return to its old form atop the college football heap. It wasn’t, in part because Manuel was injured, but also because the Noles just weren’t ready for that next step.
But they believe they are this time around, and plenty of national pundits do as well. The main reasons are because FSU may have the top defense in the country and Manuel’s potential to turn in a Heisman Trophy-like season.
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So when news that he was sitting out practice broke, even with something minor, it had to have a slightly deflating effect on the base.
Very few quarterbacks in the nation possess the 6-foot-5, 240-pound senior’s attributes. He’s completed 333 of 510 pass attempts for 4,344 yards, 24 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in his career, but six of those picks came during his freshman season when filling in for Christian Ponder, who started for the Minnesota Vikings as a rookie last fall.
Manuel’s experience even includes starting the 2010 ACC championship game, a narrow but exciting loss to Virginia Tech.
If Manuel went down during the season, his backup, Clint Trickett, may be able to get the Seminoles past a few opponents. Trickett completed 61 percent of 72 pass attempts a year ago for 675 yards, seven touchdowns and four interceptions. But Jimbo Fisher would rather see the sophomore get his next opportunity as a junior, a sentiment shared throughout the base.
Musical Tackles At Clemson
One of the more important developments as camps opened around the ACC this month was expected to be the battles for Clemson’s three available offensive line spots. With center Dalton Freeman and left tackle Brandon Thomas the only returning starters, as many as eight players have been looked at to occupy the top spot of the other three positions.
Left guard and right tackle have been the least stable of the positions. In the last two weeks, three different players have run with the first team at each those two spots. It doesn’t help that Gifford Timothy, whom many figured would get the nod at right tackle, injured a knee in practice more than a week ago and it out indefinitely.
As a result, Freeman, an All-ACC performer and major NFL prospect, could move to right tackle because the staff feels better about his backup than anyone who has worked out at right tackle so far.
Even still, the projected starters of sophomore Kalon Davis (played just 49 snaps last season) at left guard and junior Tyler Shatley at right guard remains.
Clemson opens Sept. 1 versus Auburn at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Jackets Ready For Hokies
They don’t play for another two weeks, but Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington says he and his teammates are ready to face someone other than themselves.
“The guys are ready to play someone else,” he said after Saturday’s scrimmage. “We’ve been hitting each other for two weeks an all summer doing drills against each other. Guys are just ready to go and get some new faces in front of us.”
The Yellow Jackets travel to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech in a crucial ACC opener on Labor Day night. It’s a huge game on several levels, and if the Jackets can steal a win it would put them in a strong position in the Coastal Division with a win over the perennially favored Hokies plus notching it on the road.
Washington said the quality of Georgia Tech’s workouts and the attitude on the team leaves him no reason to be optimistic as the season nears.
“Overall everything has been good,” he said. “We’ve been pushing each other. The seniors are the core group of the team and we’re trying to lead and push those younger guys and trying to get them mentally ready for what’s coming.
“We still have some steps to take to get ready mentally for game speed. But we’re ready to go.”