Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

With Florida State Seminoles in need, quarterback EJ Manuel can show he's 'ready' to lead

Redshirt freshman quarterback EJ Manuel will make his first start Saturday at Wake Forest.

Redshirt freshman quarterback EJ Manuel will make his first start Saturday at Wake Forest.

Just before trotting onto the field for the first meaningful playing time of his collegiate career, Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel exuded none of the tells of nerves or uncertainty.

He didn't stare glassy-eyed off into the distance, overwhelmed by the setting at Clemson's Death Valley. He didn't fumble with uh-huhs as he conferred with offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher. Instead, he calmly and confidently said:

"Coach. I'm ready."

Although the heralded redshirt freshman did little in that late-game situation with the Seminoles down 40-24 with 3:22 left, he now has a far better chance to back up his sideline statement.

With star Christian Ponder out for the rest of the season with a shoulder separation that requires surgery, it falls on Manuel's youthful and inexperienced shoulders to help salvage the season for the Seminoles (4-5, 2-4 ACC).

His team — and ready or not, that's what it is now — needs to win two of its last three games, beginning Saturday at Wake Forest (4-6, 2-4), just to become bowl eligible for a 28th straight year.

"I'm excited for him. I am," Fisher said. "I wish it were in a different circumstance where he didn't have as much pressure on him, but nothing in this world ever seems to work out that way. I'm very anxious to see how he does. I think he'll handle it well."

"I think everybody gets nervous. If they say they didn't, they'd be lying," Manuel said. "I'm sure I'll be nervous Saturday morning, but after that first snap, I think I'll be fine."

• • •

The first thing you notice about Manuel is his physical tools. He has uncommon speed (4.6 in the 40) and a graceful, effortless gait to go with the kind of size (6-4) to see over linemen and defensive players. And you can't miss his powerful arm.

"As a freshman, I felt he was going to be my guy," Bayside (Va.) High coach Darnell Moore said.

Manuel was all of 14 but had the skill, work ethic, attention to the smallest of details (at the risk of sounding like a "geek," he admitted he'd keep his pens and pencils neatly arranged in his binder) and passion to develop.

"EJ's a competitor and has a never-say-die attitude," his prep coach said. "He can really make things happen."

Big things, as he showed. He racked up eye-popping statistics on his way to numerous accolades. ranked him second behind Terrelle Pryor, now an Ohio State star, in the Class of 2008 among dual-threat quarterbacks.

Fisher, looking for a signature signee in his first full year at FSU, was more taken by Manuel's intangibles — the leadership, character, spiritual grounding, commitment to excellence on and off the field and toughness.

"He represents and embodies what you want in a student-athlete and the leader of your team," he said. "You look at that guy and you can picture him leading your football team in all the things he does."

• • •

After sitting out the 2008 season, Manuel found himself No. 2 on the depth chart behind Ponder. But he fractured his right index finger on the first day of spring practice.

With the FSU defense struggling and Ponder dramatically improved, Manuel found little opportunity to play and to show that he had corrected a "little hitch" in his throwing motion. Before Saturday, he had appeared briefly against BYU and USF, completing 1 of 2 passes for 4 yards and running twice for 7 yards.

Naturally, it had been a bit frustrating.

"We've talked about it three or four times," Fisher said. "That's where his maturity (is evident). … He understood where he was and what we did. He has the same mentality as Christian does as far as team and what he has to do and sacrifice."

And now, it's his time.

"I really think he's going to do well," said Ponder, who will travel with the team so he can still room with Manuel and serve as a mentor. "The biggest thing for him is he has a great head on his shoulders. He really cares about this football team and has done a good job of preparing all year like he's going to play."

"I hate that Christian had to get hurt in order for it to happen, but it is what it is," Manuel said. "Now that it's here, I'm going to try to take advantage of it and run with it."

Brian Landman can be reached at or (813) 226-3347.

.Fast facts

Meet EJ Manuel

Position: Quarterback

Height, weight: 6 feet 4, 223 pounds

Age: 19

Class: Redshirt freshman

Hometown: Virginia Beach, Va.

Major: Communication; 3.2 GPA

With Florida State Seminoles in need, quarterback EJ Manuel can show he's 'ready' to lead 11/10/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 10, 2009 11:00pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Roger Mooney's takeaways from Friday's Rays-Rangers game

    The Heater

    Looks like LF Corey Dickerson is coming out of his funk at the plate — .186 average in past 16 games entering Friday. He had two hits Wednesday in Oakland and three hits Friday against the Rangers. Okay, one was an infield hit that bounced high in front of the plate, but the other was a long home run to …

  2. History shows Ole Miss upheaval tough to overcome


    After Mississippi football coach Hugh Freeze resigned Thursday, with the opener six weeks away, offensive line coach Matt Luke is being thrown into an interim head coaching position. He will try to save a season that already had been scarred by a self-imposed bowl ban for NCAA violations.

    After coach Jim Tressel resigned, Ohio State went 6-7, including a loss to Florida in the Gator Bowl, in 2011.
  3. Bucs add top executive from MLS to business side


    The Bucs have hired a top executive from Major League Soccer to their business operations in Atul "AK" Khosla, who has spent the last six years as chief operating officer of Major League Soccer's Chicago Fire.

    Atul Khosla, 38, spent the last six years as chief operating officer of MLS' Chicago Fire. He joins the Bucs as their new chief corporate development and brand officer.
  4. Minors also a training ground for umpires with big-league dreams

    The Heater

    Umpire Tom Fornarola, 23, left, and Taylor Payne, 24, facing, talk before the start of the Gulf Coast League game between the New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers at the Tigertown complex in Lakeland, Fla. on Wednesday, July 5, 2017.
  5. For starters: Souza not in lineup vs. Rangers