The leader: Christian Ponder, RS JR
Last season: Started all 13 games taking the starting job from three-year starter Drew Weatherford.
Threw for 2006 yards converting on 177 of 318 pass attempts (55%). 14 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
*Named offensive MVP at season's end.
The good: In his first season as a starter, Ponder led Florida State to their first nine win season since 2004. He showed that he is capable of coming up in the clutch leading long drives late in games; most notable on the road against Miami and Georgia Tech. Ponder is also a dual-threat quarterback and has a frame that allows him to take hits. Although he does need to learn to slide more often, Ponder did not miss any time due to injuries last season. His mobility was on full display when the Tribe traveled to Miami and the sophomore then rushed for 144 yards which is the second most by a Florida State quarterback ever.
The bad: Ponder needs to learn to convert on passes 10-20 yards downfield with consistency. Too often last season did Ponder keep the ball too low, or float it causing his passes to be either intercepted or out of reach of his intended receivers. If Ponder continues to struggle with this, opposing teams will have an easier time gameplanning causing further problems for the Texas native.
The contenders: E.J. Manuel, RS FR
Last season: Manuel redshirted playing the main quarterback for the scout team.
The good: For the most part, it has been a mystery of how E.J. has performed while at Florida State. One thing that stuck out during the course of the season was the week before Florida State played North Carolina State. While linebacker Dekoda Watson and the Seminole defense prepared for the athletic Russell Wilson, Watson called Manuel very athletic saying he was just as fast and mobile D'Vontrey Richardson who has moved to safety. His athleticism combined with his 6'4", 225 pound frame makes him very dangerous when he decides to take the ball down and run.
The bad: Coming out of high school, Manuel had a very unorthodox release. Quarterback coach Jimbo Fisher says that Manuel has come a long way, but nobody outside of the organization has seen him play since he has been in Tallahassee making it difficult to judge. Manuel also broke a finger in his throwing hand on the first day of spring practice forcing him to miss a great opportunity to make a run at earning serious playing time.
Post spring verdict: There is no reason to believe that anyone other than Christian Ponder will be the starting quarterback when Florida State faces Miami in Labor Day in four and a half moths. Unless there is an injury, Manuel will most likely not see the field until Florida State has built up a big lead against Jacksonville State five days after the Tribe hosts the ‘Canes. Manuel will get reps throughout the season, but if he is able to overtake Ponder, Florida State could be looking at another ‘Lee/Weatherford' situation which ultimately hurts the offense. Manuel will force Ponder to improve, but shouldn't give him any reason to look over his shoulder. Ponder has total control of the offense and Manuel will most likely have to wait until the spring to challenge Ponder seriously for the starting job.
Key losses: Drew Weatherford (graduation). D'Vontrey Richardson (moved to safety).
Post-spring position breakdowns: QB
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