One player the Florida State media had not heard from in quite some time was senior quarterback E.J. Manuel, who spoke at a press conference on the first day of spring practice Mar. 19 but was silent since.
That all changed Tuesday, as the fifth-year Seminole met with reporters after class. Much of the QB-driven conversation so far this spring has revolved around the supposed battle for the No. 2 job between sophomore Clint Trickett and freshman Jacob Coker, but make no mistake about it: Manuel is the straw that stirs the drink that is coach Jimbo Fisher's scheme.
Manuel's numbers were solid but not spectacular in 2011, as he completed 65.3 percent of his passes for 2,666 yards with 18 touchdowns and eight interceptions in his first season as a starter. Most Garnet and Gold fans think the 6-5, 238-pounder is capable of so much more under center, but he spent most of this past year running for his life behind an offensive line that could not protect the passer or open up holes consistently. FSU allowed 40 sacks (112th in the country) and only managed 112.2 yards rushing per game (104th), plus Manuel was forced to fight his way through a painful shoulder injury suffered Sept. 17 against Oklahoma -- then he finished the bowl game vs. Notre Dame on a broken leg.
Because spring football is a time for coaches and players alike to blow sunshine up everyone's backsides since workouts are being conducted behind closed doors, the Virginia Beach product was a beacon of positivity.
"It's been going well," Manuel said. "I'm feeling comfortable. I'm feeling excited about Saturday['s spring game], getting a chance to go out there and allowing [the media] to see us play full blast. It's been going good."
Fisher surprised people by announcing Monday following the second scrimmage of spring that his signal callers were "live" and not protected from contact by their green jerseys, but it turns out the same thing happened in the first scrimmage.
"It was good," said Manuel of the second scrimmage. "I didn't touch the ground. I went through my checks, got the ball out of my hands, made completions. I actually was live at last Saturday's practice, too, so it wasn't that bad. Personally, I like it. I feel like it's real football. You don't have to worry about guys letting up when they're getting close to you and then you form bad habits and things like that with the ball, so I like it."
It remains to be seen if Fisher will continue to roll the dice and subject No. 3 to any more punishment, as 'Noles history buffs remember the infamous spring game of 1998, when prized recruit and projected starter Dan Kendra blew out his ACL and opened the door for the Chris Weinke era.
Sure, Weinke went on to win a national championship and a Heisman Trophy in three seasons as a starter, but the odds are long that three years of Trickett would provide the same results.
John Crist is the editor-in-chief of NoleDigest.com, a Heisman Trophy voter and a member of the Football Writers Association of America.
Manuel's opinion of 'live' scrimmage
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