PINEHURST, N.C. — The same nerves and anxiety that most backup quarterbacks go through when thrust unexpectedly into a ballgame completely bypassed EJ Manuel.
Whenever the young quarterback relieved starter Christian Ponder in Florida State's games the last two years, the butterflies stayed away because, quite simply, Manuel was going through the same motions he had experienced countless times before.
"I used to always practice like I was the starter because I knew that Ponder was going to go out and give it his all every single play. He could get pulled out at any time. I was one play away," Manuel said.
That approach will come in handy this fall when the big-bodied, athletic junior will officially be the Seminoles' starter for the first time in his career. With Ponder taken by the Vikings in the first round of the NFL draft, a quarterback transition is coming to FSU.
Other ACC team will go through the same transition.
At Miami, incumbent Jacory Harris will be in an intense fall position battle with backup Stephen Morris. Like Manuel, Morris entered ballgames last season to relieve Harris after the starter suffered injuries that kept him out of multiple games.
Morris' 1,240 passing yards as a backup energized Hurricanes fans to the point that some hoped he would completely replace the erratic Harris. The starter had 15 interceptions in limited action last fall.
First-year coach Al Golden hasn't named a starter. Though the more experienced senior Harris is listed first on the latest depth chart, Morris has a chance to unseat him.
"At the end of the day, (Harris) has more experience, but it's going to come down to who puts the team in the best position to win," Miami center Tyler Horn said. "And both guys have the ability to do that. It's going to be a lot of fun in camp watching them duel it out and compete to make each other better."
In addition to the quarterback changes at FSU and Miami, Virginia Tech, Virginia, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Clemson and Georgia Tech are replacing quarterbacks.
Yellow Jackets junior Tevin Washington, who went 1-3 as a starter at the end of last season, takes over for the departed Joshua Nesbitt. A tough option quarterback, Nesbitt was hurt late in the season, forcing Washington to finish.
"We're going to miss Nesbitt, just because he's the guy who's been back there for so long," Jackets running back Roddy Jones said. "But Tevin is going to lead us to the Promised Land this year, hopefully."
Maryland quarterback Danny O'Brien knows what these new starters are feeling. Last season, as a redshirt freshman, he became the full-time starter in Week 4.
"There's no substitute for experience," O'Brien said. "I've always prided myself on watching a lot of film and being really prepared for what I'm going to see. But there's no doubt that even as I was prepared for each game, just the experience of playing week-in and week-out is just invaluable."