The quarterback position is the glamour position in all of sports. After having numerous successful signal callers in the dynasty era, Florida State has struggled having a steady and consistent performer since Chris Weinke left in 2000. This season Florida State has the best chance of finally finding some stability at the position in quite some time. Fans will be keeping their eyes on the battle in fall camp because, if spring has any impact, Florida State may have its first new starter since 2005.
Drew Weatherford enters fall camp as the starter after missing the majority of spring with a knee injury. Drew is a 5th year senior and has been the starting quarterback since his redshirt freshman season in 2005. Coming in to FSU Drew was a top 10 quarterback, but after a promising freshman season he hasn't grown much with his game.. A lot has gone into Drew's performance at FSU from coaching to his ability make plays.
After missing the spring some fans were upset that Weatherford was named the starter. Drew struggled his junior season, eventually losing his spot to Xavier Lee then later regaining it when Lee fell apart in the Miami game. Drew was able to cut his interceptions down considerably, but he still struggled to do what a quarterback is supposed to do: put points on the board. Drew has always been a guy who does well when given time to set, read and throw, but he lacks the natural ability to make plays when the pocket collapses and he must scramble.
Christian Ponder was considered by those close to the program to be one of the biggest stars of this past spring. After Drew went down with the knee injury Christian stepped right in and flashed playmaking ability FSU hasn't seen since Chris Rix was at FSU (let's face it, Rix made a huge amount of plays). Christian did well enough that many people thought he'd be the guy heading into fall camp because of the fact he moved the offense better and was more consistent getting the team down the field. Christian showed in his only game action last year against Virginia Tech that he can make plays on the fly and that he's savvy enough to be a leader from his position.
D'Vontrey Richardson is a wild-card here. Athletically, there is not a quarterback on FSU's roster that can make plays with his arm and/or feet like D'Vo can. With Richardson it's the lack of experience. He showed the coaches this past spring he was serious about being FSU's quarterback when he gave up baseball to focus on football full time. In the spring D'Vo shared snaps with Ponder, exciting coaches and fans as he flashed traces of what can happen when he's under center. Right now the questions with Richardson are 1) can he stay qualified and 2) does he know the system?
Freshman E.J. Manuel comes in as a highly touted player out of Virginia Beach. Manuel has already flashed his potential in the summer workouts as he's already growing into a team leader. Manuel may possibly be the best of the bunch when it comes to quarterback ability, but he's new to the team and must learn the system. Coach Fisher and Coach Bowden are excited about what Manuel can do. If he comes in and dominates, watch out.
This position battle will without a doubt be THE battle Seminole fans pay attention to. A good quarterback goes a long way in the college game. FSU doesn't need a great one; they need a guy who is good. Manuel is a guy who can come in and shock the world, but the coaches really want to bring him along slowly. The coaches have already let it be known that at this time D'Vo will be used as a situational quarterback. It needs to be restated that Richardson grew exponentially in the spring, as he led the second-string offense by completing 11-of-25 passes for 140 yards, a touchdown and an interception in the spring game.
At this time it seems to be a two-way battle between the incumbent, Weatherford, and the prepared Ponder. Both have had 2 years in Jimbo Fisher's system and both are smart kids who know the system very well. It's going to come down to who can translate that knowledge into playmaking ability during camp.
Florida State knows what they're going to get with Drew. Short, controlled passes to on intermediate routes. Drew is a guy who'll take the occasional shot deep, but often times the ball doesn't get there like it should. Christian, on the other hand, made numerous big plays during the spring and showed no fear of failure or not getting the job done. That's been the biggest knock on Drew, and it's played a part in his 20-12 career record as FSU's starting quarterback. There has been a ton of mitigating factors going into FSU's poor run of quarterback play. From the previous staff, lack of a solid offensive line, to a decent running game, FSU just hasn't gotten it done as a team. All of that is changing now, and it's time to find a guy who can lead the offense and put points on the board.
Christian is primed and ready to take the spot. Drew's still not 100% with his knee, and he needs to be going into the fall. Some feel that naming him the starter heading into camp was a gesture rewarding Drew's dedication to the team. No one can take away the fact that Drew is a fantastic kid and student. But, he's left a lot to be desired on the field and now faces the toughest competition he's had at FSU. Up until the Va. Tech game Ponder was an after thought to some. He showed promise and delivered on that in the spring. The battle is going to be tough and Drew has more experience, but it's time to win at FSU. Now. Ponder was the one who built the camaraderie with the skill players in the spring, and look for that to continue in camp.
Winner: NoleDigest predicts that after a tough battle, Christian Ponder will be the starting quarterback when FSU starts the season September 6th against W. Carolina.