Last season may be one E.J. Manuel would like to forget.
While a 9-4 mark is certainly nothing to be ashamed of, preseason standards were set much higher. Florida State entered the 2011-12 campaign with national-championship aspirations, but those were quickly halted when the ‘Noles suffered three consecutive midseason losses.
And Manuel might be glad 2011 is in the rearview mirror for another reason.
An injury to his non-throwing shoulder in last year's loss to Oklahoma forced him to miss the team's next matchup at Clemson and much of the following contest at Wake Forest. After playing hurt for the remainder of the season, the Virginia Beach native sustained a fractured fibula in his left leg during the bowl victory over Notre Dame.
Manuel was able to finish the game, and the injury has healed to the point where he has been participating in spring practices.
"Good thing about that leg is we didn't do a lot of reverses, didn't do a lot of our screen games," said coach Jimbo Fisher following Monday's session. "We stayed in the pocket and basically was physical play-action pass."
Staying in the pocket is something that Manuel and Co. hope can happen a lot more this season.
The hefty amount of injuries and lack of continuity developed along the offensive line created a breakdown in protection this past year. The result was a lot more of Manuel running and scrambling than Fisher preferred and prevented the 6-5, 238-pounder from blossoming faster.
"Let me ask you this: Tom Brady and them are slanted for 87,000 yards, and all of a sudden the Giants rush them [in the Super Bowl] and what happened?" Fisher asked rhetorically. "All of a sudden there's a rush, and you're getting hit. I don't care who you are. When you get hit, it makes a difference. When you can't set your feet and when you can't do that, the aches and pains we had up front, it does affect you. You can't allow the rush to affect you. But I don't care who it is, when they get to you enough, it does."
Manuel is competing against one of the nation's best pass rushers in practice every day in Brandon Jenkins, so he should be plenty used to pressure.
However, the laundry list of injuries stunted his growth last season and never fully allowed for him to get into the flow of the offense.
So it's back to basics for the fifth-year senior signal caller.
"Gotta go back, get used to sitting in the pocket again," said Fisher. "Every year, you gotta do that. If you start doing trigonometry before you do basic math and then algebra, that's why spring is good, to fundamentally refine all those things. Today, he kinda jumped on me pretty good. He's starting to really get into a groove."
Florida State supporters hope this is the season when Manuel can live up to those lofty expectations that he carried with him when he became a spot starter back in 2009. The second half of spring practices should allow him to get back up to speed.
Manuel still has some work to do ahead of the annual Garnet and Gold Game, which wraps up spring and is scheduled for April 14 at Doak Campbell Stadium.
"His first part of spring was good, but you gotta remember he hasn't done anything," said Fisher. "He didn't go through fourth quarter [drills. This is] his first live work of anything. Getting better."
Matt Ritter is a football and basketball reporter for NoleDigest.com, as well as a graduate student in Media Communication Studies at Florida State.
Back to basics for Manuel this spring
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