Tag:E.J. Manuel
Posted on: September 18, 2011 12:19 am
Edited on: September 18, 2011 12:20 am
 

What I learned from the Big 12 (Sep 17)

Posted by Tom Fornelli

1. Oklahoma's defense is championship caliber. Having to go to Tallahassee to face a top five team in Florida State in only your second game of the season is not an easy test for any team. That being said, it was still a test that Oklahoma passed on Saturday night. Now, it was not a pretty game, particularly for Oklahoma's offense, as Landry Jones and the Sooners looked as discombobulated as I can ever remember them being in the last few seasons. Thankfully the Sooners defense was more than up to the task. Florida State scored 96 points in its first two games of the season, but the Sooners held the Seminoles to 310 yards of total offense and only 13 points.

The Sooners also brought the wood on defense, handing out some big hits -- including a scary one on Florida State receiver Kenny Shaw that ended up with Shaw immobilized on a stretcher -- and knocking quarterback E.J. Manuel out of the game. It was nice that the world finally got a chance to see just how good this unit is since the Sooners offense struggled so much. If Will Venables' unit keeps playing like this for the rest of the year, it's going to be hard to beat Oklahoma.

2. Texas needs to run the ball more. Texas's offense looked the best it has all season on Saturday afternoon in the Rose Bowl -- something about that venue for the Longhorns -- and it wasn't just because Garrett Gilbert had been replaced by Case McCoy. No, while McCoy and David Ash played well enough, it was the ground game that really carried the Longhorns. Texas rushed for 284 yards against the Bruins on Saturday, led by Malcolm Brown's 110 yards. Fozzy Whittaker also rushed for 63 yards and 2 touchdowns. Still, the more I see of Malcolm Brown running the football, the more I begin to feel that Texas may have finally found the back it has been looking for since the days of Ricky Williams and Cedric Benson.

3. If you offer the Big 12 cupcakes it will eat all of them up, possibly even the wax paper that comes with them. On Saturday Texas Tech, Missouri, Baylor, Texas A&M and Kansas State played New Mexico, Western Illinois, Stephen F. Austin, Idaho and Kent State respectively. In those five games the Big 12 schools outscored their opponents 250-20. Of those 20 points, 13 were scored by New Mexico and the other 7 were scored by Idaho on the Vandals' final possession of the game. Though I suppose it's possible Stephen F. Austin might have managed a touchdown against Baylor if the two teams had been allowed to play a fourth quarter.

4. Seth Doege is somewhat accurate with a football. Speaking of Texas Tech's scrimmage against New Mexico, quarterback Seth Doege made some history in the Raiders' 59-13 win. Doege completed 40 of 44 passes for 401 yards and 5 touchdowns. And he did this without playing in the final quarter. Still, the truly remarkable thing is that Doege's completion percentage of 91% is the highest completion percentage in NCAA history in a single game for a quarterback with at least 40 pass attempts. Who knew Texas Tech quarterbacks would still be re-writing history books even after Tommy Tuberville came to Lubbock?

5. Steele Jantz may not be the greatest thing ever. Last week I was very impressed with Steele Jantz's performance against Iowa, and apparently so was the Big 12 as he was named the conference's offensive player of the week. Well, let's hope the Big 12 wasn't watching Jantz on Friday night. Steele threw three interceptions in his first four passes of the game. Yet, somehow, someway, Jantz was able to recover from that terrible start and help lead the Cyclones to a comeback victory over UConn, giving Iowa State its first 3-0 start to a season since 2005. Iowa State would go on to finish the 2005 season 7-5 following a loss to TCU in the Houston Bowl.

6. The Kansas defense is terrible. I know that Georgia Tech's option offense can be tough to handle. I know this. Still, I don't care how tough it is to stop, that's no excuse for allowing it to rack up 768 yards of offense against you. No that is not a typo, and yes you read it right. SEVEN HUNDRED SIXTY-EIGHT yards of total offense. That includes 604 yards rushing! Georgia Tech ran the ball 50 times and averaged 12.1 yards per carry! Georgia Tech also scored a 95-yard touchdown on its first play from scrimmage, and then tossed in a 63-yard touchdown run, a 67-yard touchdown pass and a 52-yard touchdown pass just for added flavor. It was one of the most embarrassing performances I've seen from a defense in a long time, and that includes pee-wee games.

7. Weather is terrible too, but not as terrible as Kansas' defense. Once again college football saw games have to be ended early, as Baylor's 48-0 win over Stephen F. Austin ended after only three quarters. Which means that Robert Griffin's brilliant night (20/22 for 265 yards and 3 touchdowns, 78 yards rushing) likely won't count in the NCAA record books. To make matters worse, storms in Tulsa postponed the Oklahoma State/Tulsa game long enough that it is yet to kickoff as of the time this post was published.
Posted on: August 22, 2011 6:39 pm
 

Roundtable: AP poll vs. Coaches

By Eye on College Football Bloggers

Occasionally the Eye on CFB team convenes Voltron-style to answer a pressing question regarding the wild, wide world of college football. This week's topic:

The preseason AP poll is out and there's a few differences-of-opinion between the media and the Coaches' Poll. Which of those opinions does the AP have right--or wrong?

Adam Jacobi: I'm still extremely leery of putting Texas A&M and Oklahoma State in the top 10 (top nine, even, I suppose), but considering that this was the case in the coaches' poll too, I guess the Aggies and Cowboys are there to stay (until they lose).

The AP left Penn State out of the Top 25, and though the Nittany Lions are really 27th instead of 25th (i.e. not that big of a difference), I'm perfectly fine with that. I don't see their candidacy for the Top 25 lasting past the Alabama game, or reinvigorating itself at very many other points in the season. JoePa is notorious for slow-playing his quarterback situations--remember when Daryll Clark wasn't named starter until a week or two before the '08 season, then won Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year?--but I'm completely unsold on both Robert Bolden and Matt McGloin at this point, and thus unsold on PSU too. I find it interesting that Arkansas only dropped from 14th in the coaches' poll to 15th in the AP after Knile Davis went down. I think the actual impact of his injury is going to be much more substantial. Agree?
Tom Fornelli: I'm not as surprised by Arkansas only dropping a spot, because I believe in our own Brett McMurphy's ballot he said that the Knile Davis injury occurred after ballots had to be sent in. Had the injury happened a few days earlier, I believe Arkansas would have found itself closer to 20th.

AJ: Facts are for weenies, Tom.

TF: I do agree with your sentiments on Oklahoma State and Texas A&M. While I'm more confident in Oklahoma State, I'm just not sure that either is a top 10 team at the moment, and if the preseason poll is supposed to be an educated guess on how things will look at the end of the season, then I am really hesitant about boththose teams being in the top ten. One of them, maybe. But both? No.

Another team that I feel is ranked too high right now is Florida State. I understand that the Seminoles got back on the right track last season under Jimbo Fisher, but this is still a team that lost four games last season and sent its starting quarterback off to the NFL. I'm not knocking E.J. Manuel or anything, but a four-loss team with a new quarterback suddenly vaults into the top six in both polls? Am I the only one who thinks this doesn't make sense?

Chip Patterson: I think voters are remembering the way Florida State finished their season (an impressive performance in a 44-33 loss to Virginia Tech without Ponder, and knocking off the SEC runner-up in the Chick Fil-A Bowl) rather than looking at the team that lost back-to-back games to N.C. State and North Carolina.  The Seminoles have their eyes set on returning to the top five, and arguably have their best team since 2005.  Ponder's health issues have had Manuel on constant stand-by over the last two seasons, and the junior has a 4-2 record as a starter.  The Seminoles have a pair of scrimmages on the schedule before facing top-ranked Oklahomain Tallahassee on Sept. 17.  I expect that game will reveal a lot about both teams, and the outcome could shift the landscape in the hunt for the national title.

But to the question at hand: how bout them 'Neers? After the Big East was shut out of the coaches' version, West Virginia snuck into the AP poll to keep the conference from being absent in all four of the final 2010 and preseason 2011 polls. With Dana Holgorsen at the controls, it's entirely deserved.  But unfortunately, WVU was in the same position last year and dropped from the polls after losing to LSU in September. The Bayou Bengals visit Morgantown on Sept. 24 this year, so we'll see if the Mountaineers can get revenge with their new homefield advantage.

Jerry Hinnen: Though FSU looks a hair too high to me, I'm more interested in who the AP jumped over them: Boise State. The coaches were more skeptical about the Broncos, placing them No. 7, behind both the 'Noles and Stanford.The AP bumped them up to fifth, just behind the consensus top four.

And that's the right call. Because of the torrent of hype for what was expected to be Chris Petersen's best team last year, the popular conception of the Broncos seems to be that their national title window has passed. And that probably was Petersen's best team, given the strength it wielded at receiver and corner that doesn't return this year. But with Kellen Moore, Doug Martin, a stack of gifted linemen, and one of the nations's stingiest run defenses, this year's Broncos could still give last year's a run for their money.  Plus, here's the kicker: the schedule sets up even better for a chance at a crystal football than it did last year. Potential SEC East champ Georgia could give the Broncos the high-profile scalp they need to force their way into the conversation, with TCU another possible 10-win victim to boost the profile. There doesn't appear to be any road ambush waiting a la Nevada last year, either, unless San Diego State is better than we're expecting.

Bottom line: if the Broncos get past Georgia, this is a team that should finish much closer to (as in, ahead of) the AP's ranking than the coaches'--and yes, finish higher than either FSU or Andrew Luck's Cardinal, who may feel the loss of both Jim Harbaugh and top-notch defensive coordinator Vic Fangio more keenly than most expect.


Posted on: July 24, 2011 11:47 pm
Edited on: July 25, 2011 11:15 am
 

E.J. Manuel understands talk of expectations

Posted by Chip Patterson

Sunday was dedicated to the players at the ACC Football Kickoff. Two representatives from each of the 12 schools made their rounds with the media. This was my takeaway from Florida State

The buzz about Florida State is unmistakable down at the ACC Football Kickoff in Pinehurst. All through Tallahassee this offseason we've heard that "Florida State is back." One thing that is most certainly "back" for Florida State is ACC title expectations. Claiming that the Seminoles are "back" is something that quarterback E.J. Manuel is not comfortable saying, but he seems to understand why people have been talking.

"Me personally I have no control over that. People are going to say what they want and have their own opinions. But I think that's going to be settled when we actually go out there and play," Manuel said. "I'm not going to say "we're back" or anything like that because that would be taking respect away from those teams that were what Florida State is now. That's what we're working towards, and hopefully we do get to that point.

"I don't mind it, I can't control it. If that's what people want to say we appreciate it, but you also have to go out there and do it."

Manuel, a junior, has as much pressure as anyone else on the roster, being one of the few new starters on the depth chart. But the quarterbacking duties are not unfamiliar to Manuel, who saw several games of action while backing up former Seminole Christian Ponder. Manuel was asked Sunday how he thought he compared to Ponder, now a first-round draft pick of the Minnesota Vikings.

"I think we are more similar than different," Manuel said. "A lot of people want to say I'm more of a runner, he's more of a thrower. But I think Christian can run the ball and throw the ball, and I can do the same. But personality-wise, everybody's different. I wouldn't say I'm just like Ponder or anything like that but I think we are both intelligent young men and want to win."

Manuel exhibits a confidence that makes you want to believe he is destined to be the next great quarterback from the Virginia Beach area. While his appearances in Ponder's stead were sporadic and inconsistent across his career, the back-to-back performances against Virginia Tech in the ACC title game and leading the game-winning drive against South Carolina in the Chick Fil-A Bowl have changed the public's expectations from Manuel.

As he said himself, now they just need to "go out there and play."
Posted on: June 8, 2011 2:58 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2011 9:42 am
 

CBSSports.com College Football 100: 10-3

By the Eye on College Football bloggers

To celebrate the (now fewer than) 100 days remaining until the first Saturday of the new college football season, this is the CBSSports.com College Football 100: our countdown of the 2011 season's 100 most influential players, coaches, administrators, venues, or any other related
things in college football. It's like that other "most influential" list, but, you know, more important. Also: it's supposed to be fun.

We're now down to the nitty-gritty: Nos. 10-3 below, No. 2 tomorrow and our No. 1 unveiled Friday. Stay tuned.


10. JOHN MARINATTO, commissioner, Big East. Marinatto joined the Big East executive staff as senior associate commissioner in 2002, just in time to see the biggest shakeup in membership since the conference began football competition in 1991. Now, as the Big Ten and Pac-12 have shaken up the conference landscape with the expansion to 12 teams -- as well the ACC and Pac-12 recently negotiating lucrative multi-network media deals - the onus falls on Marinatto to bring the Big East up to par with the new standards of major conference football.

In his discussion with CBSSports.com's Brett McMurphy, Marinatto made no mistaking that the primary driver of Big East expansion is the expiration of their current television deal with ESPN at the end of the 2012-2013 school year. Beginning in September 2012, the Big East will have a 60-day exclusive negotiation period with the network. At that point Marinatto hopes to have expansion completed, and be holding all the attractive chips for a bidding war that will pay out the way it did for the Pac-12. TCU's arrival next season obviously holds the greatest national intrigue, as well as reaching a very un-Big East audience in the Southwest. But where will expansion stop? With the right moves, the league cound finally abandon its role as college football's BCS-conference punchline.

For now Marinatto insists that there is no model, and all options are still on the table. The only driving factor in the eyes of the conference is how will the addition of a certain team add value to television contract negotiations. College football is a big money business that networks will pay for, and after seeing the deal that Larry Scott got for the Pac-12 everyone will one a piece. But we'll get to Scott soon enough ... -- CP

9. LANDRY JONES, quarterback, Oklahoma. With Oklahoma being the popular pick to start 2011 on top of the polls, there's no arguing that quarterback Landry Jones won't begin the season as a Heisman favorite. But it's not just the visibility of being under center for the nation's No. 1 team: the junior-to-be has thrown for 7,916 yards and 64 touchdowns in his first two seasons in Norman. The formula will be pretty simple--the more games that Oklahoma wins, the more talk you'll hear of Landry Jones.

The Sooners offense has been an explosive one for as long as Bob Stoops has been at the wheel, and one that gives the quarterback a lot of toys to play with. Life is a lot easier when you have guys like Ryan Broyles, Kenny Stills and James Hanna to throw to. Still, Jones is the kid in charge of driving the car. He doesn't have a ton of room to improve this year, though he has thrown 26 interceptions in his career. If Jones can cut down on turnovers this season it will only boost his touchdown numbers, Oklahoma might never let go of that top spot, and Jones will be in New York this winter to pick up some hardware. -- TF

8. MIKE SLIVE, commissioner, SEC. If you thought for one red second someone other than Slive was the true ruler of the SEC, we hope you paid attention to the league's recent spring meetings. Slive proposed a "soft cap" of 25 signees per class, among other "roster management" initiatives designed to curb oversigning. The SEC's 12 head coaches voted against the proposal 12-0. But with the final decision in the hands of the league's presidents, the proposal passed anyway, the presidents voting 12-0 in favor. What Mike Slive wants, Mike Slive gets.

Well, except maybe a new television contract. The "no outs" nature of the league's current 15-year deal, signed three years ago, looks worse and worse as league after league (most notably the Pac-12) strike it rich on the open market and the Big Ten Network's revenues continue to grow. The SEC is hardly hurting for money, though, and it's Slive who has overseen the conference rise to five consecutive BCS championships -- spread across four teams, even more impressively -- even as its number of programs under probation has dwindled (pending a few open investigations, mind). The modern SEC might still be the Conference (former commish and BCS visionary) Roy Kramer Built, but Slive has done a masterful job of pressing its football advantages while pushing a handful of successful academic measures (like the oversigning legislation) to battle the league's win-at-all-costs image. If the SEC does make it six-for-six in 2011, its commissioner will no doubt get some measure of credit--and it's hard to argue he won't deserve it. -- JH

7. BILL HANCOCK AND THE BCS, Executive Director of/and championship cartel. Boo! Hiss! The BCS and Bill Hancock aren't the most popular topics amongst college football fans, but they are both incredibly influential in the world of college football. It's the BCS that helps inject more money in the BCS conferences, and is also a driving factor behind the conference realignment we've seen the last few years. After all, 2011 isn't TCU's final year in the Mountain West if they hadn't just finished two undefeated regular seasons and not gotten a chance to play for a title. Of course, while it's fun to rage against a acronym, it's also nice to have a face to go with that acronym.

Which is where Bill Hancock comes into play. No matter who you are -- a fan, a writer or the United States government -- if you present the BCS with a rational, well-thought and logical complaint about the BCS system, Hancock is the man you'll hear from. He'll be the guy telling you that you're wrong, and that the BCS is perfect. The BCS will then go about its business doing things the way it always has, and at the end of the season they'll determine who has the right to play for a national championship, and you won't. -- TF

6. JIMBO FISHER, head coach, Florida State. First Will Muschamp burned Texas to accept the job at Florida, then the recent Dana Holgorsen/Bill Stewart feud exploded at West Virginia. It seems like one of the only "coach-in-waiting" situations that has worked out recently was Jimbo Fisher at Florida State. After contractually getting the title in 2007, Fisher waited behind the legendary Bobby Bowden to take control of the powerhouse in Tallahassee. But in those last few years under Bowden, the Seminoles had slipped from being perennial national title contenders to perennially playing December bowl games. But that all seemed to change when Fisher took the reigns and delivered the Seminoles' first 10-win season since 2003.

Now Florida State returns 17 starters from that squad, and last year's backup quarterback E.J. Manuel steps in after leading the Seminoles to victory over South Carolina in the Chick Fil-A Bowl. Fisher's promotion also paid immediate dividends on the recruiting trail, with blue-chippers like defensive back Karlos Williams and running back James Wilder Jr. giving the 'Noles their strongest haul in years. (The 2012 class, incidentally, is already shaping up to draw consideration as the nation's best.) The pundits now have Fisher's team tagged as ACC favorites, and there is once again a major buzz around Tallahassee regarding Seminoles football. Fisher has demanded that his players understand what expectations mean. "Just because you're picked to win, they don't give you a trophy when the season starts," he explained recently.

The fast-talking Fisher will fill your ear with areas where his team needs to improve. He never gets complacent, and constantly asks more from his players. It was complacency that arguably played a major role in Florida State's fall from grace after the turn of the century, and now Fisher has a great chance to restore that dominance in 2011, in just his second year as head coach. College football's next true powerhouse could get its start here. -- CP

5. ANDREW LUCK, quarterback, Stanford. Luck finished runner up for the Heisman last season and many figured he'd be house shopping in the Charlotte area after dismantling Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. Every NFL pundit was labeling him a surefire number-one pick and future Hall of Famer after watching him shred opposing defenses every time he dropped back. CBSSports.com draft analyst Rob Rang called him the best quarterback and elite prospect he's ever scouted. With his head coach, Jim Harbaugh, headed to the San Francisco 49ers, many assumed he was a lock to bolt for NFL riches.

The architectural design and engineering major from Houston had other plans, however. He kept his Palo Alto address and announced he would stay at Stanford for his redshirt junior year to try and capture the inaugural Pac-12 title. He'll be gunning for the few Stanford quarterback records he hasn't already broken and look to get back to a BCS bowl as well. He's not just an accurate pocket passer, though; he can run and doesn't mind giving a shove to defenders if they end up in his way. It's good that he's mobile as two of the Cardinal's biggest challenges under new head coach David Shaw are replacing several starters along the offensive line and finding a few targets for Luck to throw to. Despite the issues on offense, the 6-foot-4, 240-pound quarterback is the prohibitive favorite to win the Heisman Trophy this year. He's got a lot riding on his heavily insured right arm in 2011, but with a manageable schedule and the fact that he's competed over 70 percent of his passes for his career, don't be surprised if the talented Luck keeps the Cardinal offense humming and the team in the national title hunt as well. -- BF

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4. NCAA COMMITTEE ON INFRACTIONS, punitive arm of legislative body, NCAA. The 10 members of the Committee on Infractions (COI) might be the most talked about group in sports that no one really knows anything about. Of all of the committees that make of the NCAA, the group may also be the most infamous, meeting behind closed doors and dishing out sanctions through press releases. It is this group that is tasked with being the grand jury, judge and jury for every school that comes before them and, in just about every case, has a school (and their fans) in considerable disagreement with their ruling. The members that made up the committee run the athletics gamut (three independent lawyers, three professors, three from league offices and one athletic department veteran at the moment) but all have some law or compliance background. 

The COI will be in the news a lot this year, as the off the field headlines in college sports have dictated. First up is Boise State -- battling the dreaded charge of "Lack of Institutional Control" for violations in several sports -- and Tennessee this weekend. The Volunteers' case is one many observers are looking at with a close eye due not only to the coaches involved (Lane Kiffin and Bruce Pearl) but to see how they treat a coach that blatantly lied to investigators ahead of their later date with Ohio State and Jim Tressel. In addition to levying scholarship reductions, bowl bans, probation and a host of other penalties, the COI has also started to hand out suspensions to coaches, such as the three-game suspension for UConn head basketball coach Jim Calhoun.

The committee is not bound by prior case precedent -- though they say they use it as a guide -- so decisions can feel arbitrary and vary from case to case. All of that simply makes predicting what they will do harder than getting the right lotto numbers. It's not a courtroom where schools have due process rights; the COI, rather, is all about finding "clear and convincing evidence" to support the NCAA enforcement staff's case against schools. The NCAA has recently tried to be more transparent with the COI, showing how things are done and opening the door into their world ever-so-slightly under new president Mark Emmert. Questions still remain, though, about what penalties will eventually come out of the room for schools such as Tennessee, Ohio State, and eventually North Carolina. The only answer at the moment is to wait. -- BF

3. NICK SABAN, head coach, Alabama. It's the year 2011, and the argument is over; Nick Saban is the most powerful college football coach in Division I. Every rival who might have challenged him for that honor is in decline, or gone entirely. Jim Tressel: resigned in disgrace. Pete Carroll: fled back to the NFL just ahead of the NCAA posse. Mack Brown: went 5-7, ceded Big 12 superiority to Bob Stoops. Stoops: has seen Saban win two rings with two different teams since he won his last. Urban Meyer: retired to punditdom (however temporarily). And when it comes to being the biggest, baddest head coach on the FBS block, are they really any other challengers?

If Les Miles can down the Tide in Tuscaloosa this season on his way to a second crystal football, or Chip Kelly can get his Oregon team over the hump of their nonconference struggles, or--most likely--Stoops can finally grab that elsuive second national title, then we can talk. But it's Saban until then, not least because he's as likely to come away with this season's ultimate prize as anyone; between what projects as the nation's clearcut No. 1 defense and what should be a punishing ground game, even a potentially up-and-down passing game (featuring a first-year quarterback and wideouts mostly more steady than spectacular) may not be enough to prevent the Tide's second BCS title in three years.

The old saying is that college football teams take on the personality of their coaches, and nowhere is that more true than at Alabama. Saban's brutally professional, clinically detail-oriented, obsessively driven approach has created a program where sloppiness and shoddy preparation--from offseason workouts to gameday routines to play execution--isn't so much "not tolerated" as nonexistent. It's not a particularly personable philosophy, which is one reason Saban has arguably become the SEC's most hated villain. But as the 2011 season grinds into motion, it's also what's made him the nation's single most successful active college football coach. -- JH

The 100 will continue here on Eye on CFB tomorrow. Until then, check out Nos. 100-91, 90-81, 80-71, 70-61, 60-51, 50-41, 40-31, 30-21 and 20-11. You can also keep up with the 100 by following us on Twitter.
Posted on: June 1, 2011 2:33 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2011 9:55 am
 

CBSSports.com College Football 100: 60-51

By the Eye on College Football bloggers

To celebrate the (now fewer than) 100 days remaining until the first Saturday of the new college football season, this is the CBSSports.com College Football 100: our countdown of the 2011 season's 100 most influential players, coaches, administrators, venues, or any other related
things in college football. It's like that other "most influential" list, but, you know, more important. Also: it's supposed to be fun. Enjoy.

60. PHIL KNIGHT, head honcho/sugar daddy, Nike. He just might be the most passionate college football fan in the country worth $12 billion or more. Actually, Phil Knight is one of the most passionate college football fans in the country, period. The co-founder and chairman of Nike, Knight has an imprint on the sport unlike just about any other individual. In addition to Nike having contracts with all but a handful of schools, Knight has given millions of dollars to Oregon (his alma mater) and Stanford (where he went to grad school) athletics.

Knight has been ingrained as the poster boy for Oregon football the past few years, despite trying to stay out of the spotlight as much as possible. There's good reason for his status as one of the most powerful boosters in the country, though, whether it be having an athletic department official personally report news of a Duck recruiting commitment or listening in to play calls in his suite during games. His reach, through Nike, is even impacting college football fashion choices. While the Ducks have made the leap to BCS contender every year, they're also at the cutting edge of uniform design, and that's slowly filtering down to other Nike programs like Arizona State. Phil Knight might not be the most powerful person in college athletics ... but he certainly comes close. --BF

59. MICHAEL FLOYD, wide receiver, Notre Dame. At this point we don't even know if Michael Floyd will be playing football for Notre Dame this fall. After he surprised a lot of people in South Bend and decided to return for his senior season, Floyd was busted for a DUI - his third alcohol related offense since coming to Notre Dame. He could have been kicked out of school but survived the notorious ResLife board, though he's still under suspension from his head coach, Brian Kelly. Kelly has said that Floyd will either play every game for Notre Dame this season, or he won't play any, and that decision will have a huge impact on the Irish this year.

Odds are, Floyd is going to play. The fact is that he's one of the most important members of the Notre Dame offense, and his presence on the field could be the difference-maker between another 8-5 season and a possible return to the BCS for the Golden Domers. Floyd is one of the most dynamic wide receivers in the country, and may be the best red zone receiver in college football. His 28 career touchdown catches are a Notre Dame record and, if he plays, he'll likely break the school's records for yards and receptions as well. -- TF

58. MARQUEIS GRAY, quarterback/wide receiver (?), Minnesota. MarQueis Gray is something of an enigma in Minneapolis; the high school Army All-American quarterback was a recruiting coup for Tim Brewster and Minnesota back in 2008, but since then Gray has mainly spent his time at wide receiver for the Gophers, taking a backseat to the now-departed Adam Weber. Gray has lined up at quarterback a few times in his first couple years on the field, but it's usually been to execute a running play of some kind, as Gray's passing has been mostly disastrous--he's completed just 8 of 23 attempts thus far, and that includes a 5-of-6 performance against Ohio State. Take that out, and it's a surreal 3-of-17. (Only one interception in those 23 passes though, so at least when Gray misses, he misses everybody.)

Still, it's hard not to be tantalized by Gray's prospects as a quarterback. He has the size (6'4" and a strong 230) to play under center at the next level, his arm strength is legitimate, and he's plenty fast. All in all, he has such physical skills that Brewster had to get him on the field one way or another, and that's how his first two years played out at receiver. But at some point, someone with Gray's potential has to turn "on the field one way or another" into "on the field and leading his team," and if Gray can't make significant progress on that front in 2011, new head coach Jerry Kill's first season is going to be a long one. -- AJ

57. DORIAL GREEN-BECKHAM, wide receiver, Hillcrest High School (Springfield, Mo.).  The nation's top high school football player according to MaxPreps analyst Tom Lemming, Dorial Green-Beckham is appropriately one of the most sought-after high school players in the country, if not the most sought-after player in the country. With his combination of speed and size, Green-Beckham has drawn comparisons to Randy Moss. Perhaps it's no surprise that one of the best photos in the MaxPreps database (at left) is of the star receiver is him making a leaping, one-handed grab.

Green-Beckham is considering schools closer to home, such as Missouri and Oklahoma, along with several SEC schools. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound receiver does not have a timetable as to when he'll choose a school, but he is looking to make his choice known on Signing Day so this will be a process that lasts until February. Recruiting has taken a back seat for Green-Beckham at the moment, though, as his younger brother Darnell is going through treatment for leukemia. As Dorial and his entire family goes through this grueling ordeal with Darnell, it's an important reminder of life outside of the game of football. -- BF

56. CHARLIE STRONG, head coach, Louisville. When Strong finally got the tap to join the head coaching community, his peers were elated and Louisville fans were excited to see what the heralded defensive coordinator could do with the Cardinals. He was brought in to fix what Steve Kragthorpe had broken, and in one season he was able to deliver the program's first bowl win since the Bobby Petrino era. The 2010 team was loaded with veterans on defense, and anchored by Bilal Powell's 1,405 yards of downhill running.

With Powell and many starters gone from last year's squad, Strong will have to deliver a repeat performance with less tools in the shed. To make matters worse, his team was decimated by injury this spring. The plague got so bad for the Cardinals that the spring "game" was changed to a scrimmage; the only way to practice with the offensive line became sunrise sessions that worked with the class schedules of the few healthy lineman. The second-year head coach maintained a positive outlook, but was honest about the obstacles he faced with the already-inexperienced team this spring. The coaching challenge for Strong is even greater in 2011--unfortunately, after 2010's success, the expectations might be even higher. -- CP

55. E.J. MANUEL, quarterback, Florida State. The revival in Tallahassee has been one of the most prominent offseason stories in the ACC. Jimbo Fisher's first season at the helm brought an Atlantic Division title, a Chick-Fil-A Bowl win over SEC runner-up South Carolina, and their first 10-win season since 2003. Already pegged as the favorite in the ACC, and possibly a national title contender, the expectations are back at Florida State. And much of the weight of those expectations falls on the shoulders of quarterback E.J. Manuel.

Manuel is no stranger to leading the Seminoles. Frequently over the last two seasons he has stepped in for the oft-injured Christian Ponder. But the appearances near the end of 2010 (against Clemson, Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game, and then the Gamecocks in the bowl game) showed a more mature and dangerous playmaker than Florida State fans had seen before. Manuel kept himself composed on the biggest stage, being called on at the last minute in both situations to step in and lead the offense. He didn't have a fantastic spring, but Fisher is confident in his starter's ability to lead this team all the way to the top. Now the pressure is on Manuel to prove him right. -- CP

54. HARVEY UPDYKE, accused tree poisoner, Dadeville, Ala. No, "Al from Dadeville" isn't about to suit up for his beloved Alabama Crimson Tide, isn't about to steal any signals from his hated Auburn Tigers, isn't about to do anything to impact events on the field. But his (alleged) destructive actions will resonate throughout the season off the field, as college football learns to confront not only its increasingly rabid fandoms, but the Internet soapboxes and radio call-in echo chambers that help turn the healthy love of a favorite team into something toxic. If 2011 proves to be the year where the sport takes a legitimate step towards hooliganism, Updyke will have been the tipping point.

And of course, that goes double in the state of Alabama. Updyke isn't in any way representative of the Tide fanbase as a whole, nor that of the Tide's rivals on the Plains; the outpouring of support from Tuscaloosa after the poisoning announcement (and -- though in a situation so much more serious the two perhaps shouldn't be mentioned in the same paragraph -- from Auburn after the tornado tragedy) is far more typical of the majority of the state's football fans. Still, the same mad passion for college football that helped make Alabama the sport's epicenter the previous two seasons also unquestionably helped spawn the likes of Updyke. As the Tide gears up for another potential title run, the specter of "Al from Dadeville" -- and the potential for harm its school spirit-gone-wrong represents -- will continue to linger over the Iron Bowl ... and all of college football. -- JH

53. TOM O'BRIEN, head coach, N.C. State. In his fourth year since arriving at N.C. State from Boston College, O'Brien was able to deliver just the Wolfpack's second season since 1994 with at least nine wins. His team even came within one victory of the ACC Championship Game berth, then made up for that disappointment with an impressive 23-7 victory over West Virginia in the Champs Sports Bowl. For the time being, O'Brien could do no wrong. Wolfpack fans said their goodbyes to baseball-bound star quarterback Russell Wilson, and O'Brien began focusing on repeating the success from 2010.

Then in late April, Wilson decided that he wanted to come back to college football. That's when O'Brien stood strong on his word and made one of the more unconventional (and possibly influential) coaching decisions in recent memory. He stuck by junior quarterback Mike Glennon as his starter, and Wilson was granted a release from his scholarship. With one year of eligibility remaining, Wilson could end up being the final piece to a BCS team looking to get to the next level, or he could end up the next Jeremiah Masoli--a round peg trying to quickly fit into a square hole. Glennon, meanwhile, could be the star gunslinger he was thought to be as a recruit, or maybe the three years on the sideline behind Wilson have made him rusty. There are many different endings to the Wolfpack's 2011 story, but it all started with O'Brien's decision to let Wilson walk out the door. -- CP

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52. DAN PERSA, quarterback, Northwestern. Persa had quite the eventful five seconds last November 13. He threw a game-winning touchdown to Demetrius Fields in a 21-17 win over Iowa, then came down awkwardly on his right leg and ruptured his Achilles tendon, ending his season. And it was a stellar season, at that; Persa was in the top 10 nationally in passing efficiency, and at the time of his injury he was leading the Wildcats in rushing yards by a substantial margin. Northwestern would go on the finish 0-3 after Persa's injury (although that might have more to do with the 163 points they gave up in those contests than anything else).

Fortunately, Persa's rehab is on track, and he's probably going to be back under center for Northwestern come this September. Achilles injuries are tricky, though, and Persa's mobility is probably going to be affected to some extent. Doubtless, Pat Fitzgerald would like to rush his quarterback less anyway, seeing as how Persa's 2010 workload was more necessity than luxury, but that means someone in Northwestern's backfield is going to have to step up in 2011. Mike Trumpy, perhaps? They're probably hoping so in Evanston. -- AJ

51. TOMMY TUBERVILLE, head coach, Texas Tech. Not every red Raider fan was thrilled with the idea of replacing Mike Leach with Tommy Tuberville last season. It was kind of like Tech had traded in its Ferrari Enzo for a Ford Focus. There's nothing wrong with the Focus, as it'll get you where you want to go, gets nice mileage and is extremely dependable ... but it's not a Ferrari. Still, in 2010 at least, it's not as though the Texas Tech offense became a replica of Tuberville's conservative Auburn teams; the Raiders still finished seventh in the country in passing yards and 23rd nationally in points-per-game.

The problem -- as is normally the case in Lubbock -- was a defense that allowed over 30 points a contest. Tuberville got to where he is as a head coach by coaching defense, and as he enters his second season in Lubbock, we should start to see the defense improve. And if that starts to happen, fans may have to adjust to a less active scoreboard, but they may start seeing a lot more wins as well. Tuberville's track record at Texas A&M, Miami, Ole Miss and Auburn shows that Tech is going to be a better team long-term with him at the helm, a difference the Raiders should start seeing in 2011. -- TF

The 100 will continue here on Eye on CFB tomorrow. Until then, check out Nos. 100-91, 90-81, 80-71 and 70-61. You can also keep up with the 100 by following us on Twitter.




Posted on: May 3, 2011 6:08 pm
Edited on: May 4, 2011 2:31 pm
 

Where should Russell Wilson land?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

He's not exactly Curt Flood,   but all the same Russell Wilson may wind up serving as a college football landmark: the sport's first legitimate free agent. Cut loose from N.C. Stateeligible to play virtually anywhere thanks to his early graduation, "95 percent" likely to take advantage of that eligiblity, and -- most importantly -- a bona fide all-conference candidate with three years of starting experience and a 76-26 career touchdown-to-interception ratio. 

So Wilson represents uncharted waters for college football; while other players have been eligible to transfer without penalty, none have offered such tantalizing immediate benefits. But which school is going to be the lucky one to sail into those waters? 

We don't know. No one does, Wilson included; he's still got months of baseball ahead of him. But we can say which programs would be the best fit should Wilson decide to take a look. Here's our guesses for the comfiest landing spot for Wilson in each BCS conference, judging by both which team would benefit most by Wilson's arrival and which team Wilson would benefit most by joining. Enjoy:

SEC: TENNESSEE. Yep, we're saying the Vols, despite most of the early Wilson speculation centering on South Carolina, Ole Miss, and Auburn. But multiple reporters covering the Tigers have said they won't be interested; it makes sense considering that 2012 shapes up as a much more likely championship campaign for Auburn than 2011, and Gene Chizik won't want to spoil that with a first-year starter under center. Steve Spurrier will certainly give Wilson a ring if Stephen Garcia is finally dismissed, but if Garcia sticks around, neither he nor Wilson will want the controversy his arrival would bring. And though we have little doubt Houston Nutt would welcome Wilson with open arms rather than ride with the untested Randall Mackey or Barry Brunetti, Wilson can probably find a team with higher expectations.

Enter Tennessee. Yes, the Vols have a starter already, promising sophomore Tyler Bray. But Bray's boom-or-bust results late last season and ugly 5-for-30 spring game performance suggest that he might need more seasoning before taking the reins for a full SEC season. Bringing in Wilson lets the Vols redshirt and groom Bray for three solid seasons to follow, without taking a step back at the position; going to Tennessee lets Wilson play for a high-profile team in the nation's toughest conference, one with plenty of playmakers at his disposal. It's a win-win.

BIG TEN: WISCONSIN. An easy call: the perpetually consistent Badgers have the defensive playmakers, the ball-carriers and the receivers to put together another fine Big Ten team if they can hold the line on the offensive line ... and if they can find a quarterback. The results at the Badgers' spring game  suggest they don't have the latter yet. The stodgy Badger attack won't make much use of Wilson's mobility, but no other team in the conference offers Wilson the chance to waltz in as the unquestioned starter for a top-25 program.

BIG 12: MISSOURI. After years of Chase Daniel and then Blaine Gabbert spearheading the Tigers' aerial attack, Gary Pinkel has to feel a little spoiled when it comes to quarterbacks. But that may be changing, as Mizzou comes out of spring without a clearcut starter and with neither candidate (Tyler Gabbert, younger brother of Blaine, or James Franklin) having looked quite in the Daniel/Gabbert class. Wilson would short-circuit any potential quarterback-platoon talk immediately upon arrival and give the Tigers one of the best trigger-men their spread could ask for. Wilson, meanwhile, would have the benefit of having the ball in his hands 40 to 50 times a game, for a team whose underrated defense should make them top-25 contenders.

PAC-12: UCLA. Let's face it: the 3-9 Bruins maybe don't have a heck of a lot to offer in terms of football glory. But after their seemingly endless quarterback carousel of the past few seasons, no program would be more appreciative -- no coach more thankful -- than UCLA and Rick Neuheisel. If Wilson can salvage a winning season out of 2011 and potentially turn around the flagging tenure of Neuheisel, the gratitude aimed his way from the Westwood faithful would likely dwarf anything he'd receive anywhere else. (Besides, most of the other Pac-12 contenders -- Oregon, Stanford, Arizona State, Cal, even ineligible pseudo-contender USC  -- have fairly established quarterbacks.)

ACC: FLORIDA STATE NO ONE

[This section originally discussed the "far-fetched" possibility that Wilson could transfer to the Wolfpack's intra-division rivals in Tallahassee, but it's more than far-fetched; it's impossible, since Wilson's release -- originally, erroneously reported as "unconditional" -- specifies that he may not transfer to an ACC school or any school on NCSU's schedule. In retrospect, this is a common sense precaution. Apologies.]

BIG EAST: WEST VIRGINIA. We're kidding, mostly; Geno Smith enjoyed an excellent spring game and will be the Mountaineers' 2011 starter. And given Wilson's unwillingness to give up on a "football dream" that likely includes the NFL, he would likely pass on Dana Holgorsen's Mike Leach- inspired  "Air Raid" offense anyway, which has struggled putting its passers in the pros. But an offense like Holgorsen's, as helmed by a talent like Wilson? We can dream of those kinds of pinball games, can't we?



Posted on: May 2, 2011 6:13 pm
Edited on: May 2, 2011 6:19 pm
 

What I learned this spring: ACC Atlantic

Posted by Chip Patterson

With all six spring games completed, we wrap up spring practice in the ACC Atlantic Division.

BOSTON COLLEGE: One of the things that became increasingly evident this spring was how much the Eagles have riding on running back Montel Harris going into the 2011 season. Harris tore his lateral meniscus in Boston College's ACC finale against Virginia and missed the rest of the season after undergoing surgery. Even missing the last game, Harris finished second in the ACC with 1,242 yards. After one carry in Boston College's spring game (which really is more of an offense-defense scrimmage), Harris was taken out for "precautionary measures."

All spring, the Eagles' foremost concern has been the health of their prized running back, as it should be. Boston College's muddled quarterback situation does not provide a whole lot of confidence in the passing game. Chase Rettig has likely emerged spring as the starter, taking significantly more reps near the end of the practice than Dave Shinskie, and Mike Marscovetra. Rettig emerged as a freshman in 2010 and finished the season as the starter. But his 6 touchdowns to 9 interceptions on the season hardly secured him the gig for 2011. But after completing 20-of-29 passes for 182 yards in the spring game, popular belief is that Rettig will be the starter in the fall. Boston College's greatest asset still is their defense, which will be highlighted once again by Kevin Pierre Louis and Luke Kuechly, who was recently got named to the Lott Trophy Watch list.

CLEMSON: With Kyle Parker off with the Colorado Rockies for good, this spring was the time for former backup Tajh Boyd to take command of this team. The obstacle he faced heading into practice was doing it with a brand new offensive coordinator. Since taking over under Todd Morris' new system Boyd has been consistent in his effort and leadership, just inconsistent on performance. In the Tigers' spring game Boyd looked out of rhythm with his receivers, completing only 8 of 24 passes for 114 yards. Head coach Dabo Swinney hopes that Boyd will be pushed by backup quarterback Cole Stoudt, but Boyd has been the man in charge of Morris' new offense - which is reportedly only about 60% installed.

The new up-tempo offense could benefit the Tigers in the ACC, particularly with the athletes they have at the skill positions. If the spring game was any measure, Clemson should see a significant increase in their play count per game. The scheme has proven to put up big numbers, but it relies about as evenly on the run game as the passing game. Luckily the Tigers are well equipped at running back. Andre Ellington returns after collecting 686 yards and 10 touchdowns in just eight games of action before suffering a season-ending toe injury. Sitting out of spring drills, Clemson fans got a good look at his backups and - what should be - a very deep running back position. Demont Buice (18 carries, 102 yards), Roderick McDowell (12 carries, 100 yards), and D.J. Howard (11 carries, 97 yards) all had strong showings in the spring game and should make for an interesting competition once camp opens in the fall. Defensively one big surprise was the emergence of Corey Crawford. The 6-5, 275-pound early enrollee has raised eyebrows all spring, and figures to already be a part of the defensive end rotation in the fall. Wearing Da'Quan Bowers' No. 93, Crawford appears to be taking the responsibility of upholding the legacy of Bowers and the late Gaines Adams.

FLORIDA STATE: Without a doubt, the Seminoles exit the spring as a favorite to repeat as Atlantic Division Champions in 2011. With the talent returning from last year's squad and the rise of junior quarterback E.J. Manuel, head coach Jimbo Fisher has Tallahassee buzzing once again about brining the ACC title home to where it started. Florida State won in the inaugural ACC title game in 2005, and the closest they have come since then was last year's 44-33 defeat to Virginia Tech.

The hype set the bar high, but spring practice posed a different set of challenges for Fisher and his staff. The Seminoles had seven starters miss practice due to injury, so the coaches used much of the spring to sort out depth issues. The offensive line is a bit of a concern for Fisher, as they have had to do some shuffling in order to fill out the line and establish some depth. The coaches were pleased with Manuel's spring as a whole, but the junior quarterback struggled in Florida State's well-attended spring game. Fisher has said that he is mostly concerned with Manuel's development as a leader at this point, and did not seem to think much of his spring game outing.

"He was frustrated but I got more out of him today because we struggled and he didn't have a good day," Fisher said following the game. "At the end of the day we had a chance to make plays and we made a few plays."

Many of the injuries were on the defensive end, but with all of those players getting back to 100% before training camp it should not play a major factor in the Seminoles' readiness for the season. If there is any "red-flag" from spring practice it would be a fear of complacency. There were several early practices that led Fisher to criticize his team's speed and toughness. Florida State cannot afford to be slow-starting in 2011 if they truly plan on competing for a National Championship. With Oklahoma visiting Tallahassee on Sept. 13, the Seminoles need to be competing in midseason form from the first day of camp. If Florida State is "going through the motions" at the beginning of the season, the Sooners will be a rude wake-up call after Louisiana-Monroe and Charleston Southern.
 
MARYLAND:
There will be no surprises this year with sophomore quarterback Danny O'Brien. After being named the 2010 ACC Rookie of the Year, O'Brien's development has not been slowed due to the coaching changes at Maryland. In fact, the new system installed by former LSU offensive coordinator Gary Crowton has the players feeling like there could be even more passing in 2011. O'Brien took advantage of the vanilla scrimmage coverages in the spring game, completing 16 of 23 passes for 199 yards and a pair of touchdowns. New head coach Randy Edsall is very excited about the rotation of wide receivers taking shape, with Ronnie Tyler, Kevin Dorsey, and Quintin McCree all having strong springs.

With defensive coordinator Don Brown leaving to take the position at Connecticut, Maryland's defense has spent most of the spring trying to learn a new system. Edsall promoted assistant coach Todd Bradford to the position in mid-February, and the newness of the change seems to still be setting in for the players. Brown's system carried lots of blitzing packages and multiple looks, the players say Bradford's relies more on coverage responsibility. Maryland's defense is experienced, but they are still a little slow getting on the same page at this point.
 
NC STATE:
What I learned this spring is that head coach Tom O'Brien's word at N.C. State is firm and unwavering. O'Brien told Russell Wilson that if he wanted to be the starting quarterback in 2011 he needed to stay with the team instead of playing minor league baseball in the offseason. Even when Wilson, an All-ACC quarterback and 2010 Champs Sports Bowl MVP, asked O'Brien if he could return in August - O'Brien said no. So now the reigns are officially in the hands of Mike Glennon, the highly-recruited younger brother of former Virginia Tech quarterback Sean Glennon. Glennon, a redshirt junior, checks out on paper as a strong candidate for the Wolfpack starting job. The only thing that he lacks is actual game experience. The problem is that with Wilson's departure to continue football elsewhere (as opposed to sticking with professional baseball) will have an effect on the fan base's expectations from Glennon. Glennon did not have a great outing in N.C. State's shortened spring game (inclement weather), and it will be important for his confidence to get some early wins in the fall.

N.C. State lost leading rusher Mustafa Greene to injury during spring practice, but he is expected to be back in time for fall practice. Greene emerged as the answer to one of the big question marks in 2010, and he will be leaned on to help Glennon get comfortable in the starting position. This year it has been the wide receiver position that was not addressed this spring, as T.J. Graham leads a crop of wideouts that lack experience in game situations. Wolfpack fans are hoping for another Greene-type situation out of the position next fall. The linebacking corps will be strong point once again for N.C. State, led by Terrell Manning and Audi Cole. Cole moves over to Nate Irving's position of middle linebacker, and while the transition has not been easy the coaching staff seems pleased with his progress and potential heading into the new season.
 
WAKE FOREST:
We knew that Wake Forest had a long way to go to improve on last year's frustrating 3-9 season. With spring practice in the books, the Demon Deacons still are a ways away from the squad that was competing among the ACC elite a half-decade ago. Head coach Jim Grobe often mentioned how inexperience played a factor in 2010's struggles, with the Deacons having to start several freshman (especially on the defensive end) throughout the season.

"I think last year we were a soft group of freshmen, and now we're just a crusty group of sophomores,"Grobe told the Winston-Salem Journal. "I know coaches are worried about playing too many sophomores but for me, we're light years ahead of where we were last year with these guys."

Offensively, the Deacons will hope to get running back Josh Harris going behind a more experienced offensive line. The talented sophomore broke out against Virginia Tech (20 carries, 241 yards, two touchdowns) and in the season finale against Vanderbilt (18 carries, 138 yards, one touchdown). But inconsistent production during the regular season have left Wake Forest fans looking for more out of the running back from Duncanville, TX. Harris led all rushers in the spring game with 85 yards, but missed many of the workouts due to injury. If Harris can't get the ground game going there will be a lot of pressure on quarterback Tanner Price to make plays with his wide receivers, which doesn't appear very threatening at this point.
Posted on: April 21, 2011 3:54 pm
Edited on: April 21, 2011 4:08 pm
 

Fisher: E.J. Manuel ready for the pressure

Posted by Chip Patterson

For the first time in a couple years, Florida State is once again the center of attention looking ahead to the upcoming football season. Coming off a WIN-win season with a Chick Fil-A Bowl victory over South Carolina, the Seminoles will return 17 starters and have already been dubbed a favorite to win the ACC next season.

But they will have to do so without Christian Ponder, who threw for 2,000 yards every season from 2008-2010. Luckily for head coach Jimbo Fisher, Ponder's replacement has gotten plenty of experience. During Ponder's last two seasons, rising junior E.J. Manuel has seen significant time under center for the Seminoles. As a whole Manuel has been a little spotty, but his play in the ACC Championship Game and following bowl game has Seminole fans expecting big things. His head coach seems to believe that the junior is ready for the spotlight.

“That’s E.J.’s nature,” Fisher said about Manuel feeling pressure, “but I don’t think that’s pressure that he can’t handle, or things that he knows that he can do. Like you said, the thing that he can revert back to is the fact that he’s done this before and he’s been successful. I expect him to handle it very well, but I do expect him to challenge himself."

Manuel entered then the second quarter when Ponder left with a concussion. The talented quarterback seized control of the program in those final three quarters, completing 11 of 15 passes for a touchdown and rushing the ball seven times for 46 yards. When South Carolina clipped the Seminoles' lead to 2 with under 12 minutes remaining, Manuel orchestrated a perfect 26 play, 63 yard drive that finished by finding Taiwan Easterling in the end zone to seal the victory for Florida State.

In Florida State's spring game however, Manuel struggled to make a similar impression. He struggled to get settled, completing just 17 of 36 passes in the intrasquad scrimmage. The performance might have gone less noticed were it not for the 53,818 fans in attendance.

But even with the off-day in Doak Campbell Stadium, few around Tallahassee are concerned about Manuel's ability to lead this team. Fellow teammates continue to mention his presence in the locker room and huddle, and despite spring frustrations he has remained focus on the Florida State's goal of bringing the ACC Championship back to Tallahassee.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com