(Editor's note: Blatant Homerism's annual "On the Spot" offseason series looks at the who, what, when, where and why under the gun in the upcoming year. This first article in the 2011 edition looks at Florida State's new quarterback.)
Last season's thrashing at the hands of the Oklahoma Sooners signaled that the Florida State Seminoles had yet to shake off all of the cobwebs from Bobby Bowden's blue period and rejoin the ranks of the nation's elite.
But damn if second-year coach Jimbo Fisher doesn't have the 'Noles on the fast track back to college football's upper echelon.
After FSU won 10 games and a division title in Fisher's first season at the helm, the Seminoles took advantage of upheaval at Florida and Miami to snag a second consecutive recruiting class full of studs. With all that momentum and plenty of returning talent, the pundits are once again pegging Florida State as a legit national championship contender. (Takes Homerism back to my youth.)
The big unknown for the 'Noles sits right behind center, though.
Junior E.J. Manuel, a heralded dual-threat quarterback out of Virginia, filled in more than capably for oft-injured Christian Ponder in the last two seasons. FSU went 4-2 in games Manuel started during that period, and when Ponder went down against South Carolina in the Chick-fil-A Bowl last season, Manuel stepped in to key the win.
Ponder, a skilled passer, gave the FSU offense some savvy. Despite all the problems with his health, Ponder's athleticism still enabled him to make plays on the move, too. It's typically hard for teams to just up and replace that kind of veteran presence in the huddle.
But here's a frightening thought for the Seminoles' opponents: Manuel may make FSU better right away.
From a pure numbers standpoint, Manuel definitely improved from 2009 to 2010. Furthermore, he played well against a strong slate of opponents in Clemson, Virginia Tech and the Gamecocks.
|Comp. %||Yards/Att||Int/Att||Pass TDs||Rating|
Ponder may have been athletic, but Manuel is a cut above him in terms of mobility. That gives an offensive guru like Fisher the opportunity to diversify FSU's scheme with more rollouts, option plays and designed quarterback runs. Also, Manuel's running ability should compensate for some big losses from a decorated offensive line.
Top to bottom, Florida State is loaded. The 'Noles have to be the odds-on favorites to win the ACC. Fisher won't need Manuel to be great to climb that hill.
Yet, to actually compete for a national championship, FSU won't have time for Manuel to work through any growing pains in his first season as the full-time starter. Manuel already has plenty of seasoning and a body of work that indicates he's ready to roll.