With the status of being a 5-star prospect also comes the pressure to prove the ranking is deserved. Early on E.J. says he was pressing, wanting to show the experts and fans that he is as good as advertised. "We are 4-3 right now, but we are playing much better than we were earlier in the year. I was a little worried about all of the hype surrounding the rankings and all, and I was a little upset that we didn't come out throwing like I thought we would. I talked to Coach Moore (his high school coach) about that. We have a very open relationship. He told me about patience and letting it come to me. Being that I am the number one quarterback this year, I felt I needed to put up the stats. But like Coach Moore and Coach Fisher tell me, I can only control what I can control. After the first few games I said forget the stats, let's just win. We can't lose anymore to make the playoffs. I'm pleased that our team is playing well. We have a tough game this weekend, but we should be able to win. Early on we lost a few games we should have won because we were flat and didn't take care of business. Now we are all focused and ready to go," said Manuel.
Before his commitment this summer, E.J. made an unofficial visit to FSU to check things out. Now that school and the football season are in full swing, he wants to see what the atmosphere is like during game day and the campus now that all of the students are in town. "I am just really excited to get back to Tallahassee to see the coaches and see the fans. This is a traditional rival in Miami and I am excited I get to see that game in person. It's one of the biggest games I can go to and I'm excited that I can be apart of it. I always hear how loud and crazy the games at Doak are and I want to see it for myself. Not that I don't believe it, just that it's something I've been wanting to see. It'll be nice to see Coach Fisher and talk to him more, and see Coach Bowden and Lilly. Also I finally get a chance to meet Coach Amato as he wasn't there when I was there during the summer," mentioned Manuel.
E.J. will not be coming alone as his mother; father and sister will be joining him on this visit. Manuel said, "We're just excited to see the game, get a better tour of the campus and see how it is during the school year. We just want to have fun hanging out in the Florida sun. My sister is excited that she gets to come on this visit with me. She goes to High Point University. She actually played against FSU last year."
The relationship with offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher is one reason why E.J. committed so early in the process. He feels that Fisher's background and experience makes him the guy that will allow him to continue to grow into the player he wants to be. "Coach Fisher and I have a great relationship. He calls me Wednesday, Thursday or Sunday every week. Sometimes he talks to me about my games, and he knows how I did before I can tell him. He is real fun to talk to. I am sure his coaching style is different than how he is on the phone. I like that because he won't let me get away with anything and as a quarterback those little things can hurt you. He is like Coach Moore in that they want me to keep my eye on the future. I am a real coach able kid and I continue to stay that way when I get to college and listen to what Coach Fisher has to say," said Manuel.
Signing a top-level quarterback was important to the 2008 class, and E.J. fits the mold to a "t". He has become the centerpiece to the recruiting class and it is something that he likes, saying, "I want to bring versatility to the quarterback position at FSU. I take football seriously, but I like to have fun at the same time. I make sure that I have fun and produce, and make sure that my teammates do the same. I guess that's a reason why people say I am a good leader. I plan on coming to FSU, working hard, and make some things happen. I feel that my leadership makes me a coach on the field. I am a student of the game as I am always watching film and learning how to read defenses. In high school it is easy, but college is a whole new ball game. I am not afraid of anyone on defense. I am a hard nosed kid who just wants to come in to FSU work hard to earn respect, because you can't expect to immediately get it, and be a leader."
That leadership has transferred over to the recruiting aspect. E.J. has been a kid who has been front and center helping the coaches contact kids and promote FSU."I have been busy with the season and all, but I am going to do a lot of talking this weekend. I am excited to meet Corey Surrency. That guy is awesome. Coach Fisher raves about him whenever we talk. He is a big target who runs well and can catch the ball. I'd love to get him, Deion Walker and Julio Jones to join us at FSU. I am working on that. I am going to tell Corey the things we can do in Fisher's offense and show him we can do big things there. Like Vince Williams says, you're either with us or against us. It comes down to being a leader, and I feel the quarterback is the leader. I want to be a leader in everything I do. I want to set a good example for my future teammates," said Manuel.
When E.J. visited this summer one thing he made sure he wanted to check out was the academic side of things. At the time he was leaning towards biomedical engineering, and that is what he will be majoring in when he gets to FSU. Manuel states, "When I went there this summer I met with the advisors and all in that department. I know Keith Wells is majoring in that too, and I am excited to finally meet him in person. I think we are going to go over there together. Whatever college you go to you're going to get a good education. My family and I went through the engineering department and I was very impressed with it. I am going to make sure that I stop by while I'm there to check up with things."
Like many prospects who are committed, E.J. has taken a lot of interest into what the Noles have been doing on the field. He pays a lot of attention to the offense, and he has came away impressed with what he has seen so far saying, "When I watch the first thing I see is the formations and how they move out of them before the snap. I like Fisher's offense a lot. At LSU it was the perfect thing with Russell and Bowe and everything. I really think that is how FSU is going to be. It may be two years, it may be one, but they are improving. I look up to Xavier and Drew. I plan on following them, learning how they study film and just sit and learn. The offense is wide open, and I like the athletes that are there at receiver. I understand that the we're at a growing phase and that it cannot be expected that new coaches come in and automatically click. Its still a work in progress and I feel like I am going to be one of those pieces that helps bring it all together and make us the FSU of old."
E.J. says there have been some questions if he is going to come in and redshirt, or come in and get into the quarterback race once he gets on campus. "There haven't really been any talks from Bowden or Fisher about me redshirting. I'm ready to go to FSU and work. I feel if I just get there and learn and be one of the guys and just go in and play, it will all work out. I am not going to be one of those kids that comes in with all the 5-star hype thinking I deserve everything. Everyone on our team has worked hard at FSU and I don't want to be that guy people look at and think what's with this kid. If it comes that I play, I'll take the chance and go with it. If I sit and wait that is fine because I will make sure I am learning. I am not of the belief that I will be able to come in right away and run the college game because I know it's on another level from high school. It's a different ball game. My first goal is to come in and make sure I am one of the guys," said E.J.
It is easy to see that not only is E.J. a top level prospect, but he is also a top-level kid. His excitement is very easy to see when it comes to FSU. This weekend is something he's been looking forward to, so much that it's affected his sleep. "Last night I had a dream that I was at my first FSU practice. I had my gold helmet, my jersey and playing and getting along with my team. I just remember I was passing it to Parker, running and having a great time being in Tallahassee. I love it there and it's nice to be a Seminole," said Manuel.
Stay tuned to NoleDigest for further updates with the Bayside star as he continues his senior season.