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Another relic from the Bowden era: The QB succession plan

It has been so interesting to watch E.J. Manuel get meaningful playing time in his two starts since Ponder's shoulder injury. He's certainly showed flashes of brilliance as well as evidence that he has LOTS of mistakes to work out of his system.

But the very least we can say is this: We can actually breathe next year when Ponder decides not to slide to end a run, knowing we have a capable backup.

Manuel's ascendancy into the spotlight is also an interesting juxtaposition to the descent of Bobby Bowden as his time at FSU draws to a merciful close.

The Bowden era will be remembered for many things -- the program re-launch in the late 70s, the dynasty years in the 90s, superstar players such as Simmons, Sanders and Ward; daring playcalling and then offensive innovation with the spread formation.

A sometimes forgotten aspect of the dynasty was Bowden's embrace of a quarterback succession plan.

Bowden began to set up a recruiting structure by which he spaced quarterbacks two years apart, with redshirts factored in, so that a quarterback became a starter as a redshirt junior.  New "elite" quarterbacks were recruited when the incumbent was a redshirt senior.

This system became most noticeable during the early 90s when FSU fans salivated at the prospect of Charlie Ward quarterbacking the Noles. But they patiently waited (and some fine seasons made it easier) for Casey Weldon to graduate so Ward would take over as a redshirt junior.

The system fell apart in the early 2000s due to injuries and other factors, something lamented by Bowdenistas as a reason for the downfall of the program and as an excuse for the ineptitude of Jeff Bowden.

I submit, however, that this system's time has passed (much like the man who who practiced it).  This is a new era of college football where the quarterback position is placed in the line of fire much more frequently than ever before.

To illustrate this, let's take a trip back to the Ward era. When FSU fans think of Charlie Ward's style of play, they think of two things -- Ward's passing in the spread offense and his incredible elusiveness in the pocket and as a runner. You'd probably have to go back to Kelly Lowery and Eric Thomas running the option in the early/mid-eighties to come up with quarterbacks who featured running as part of their arsenal more than Ward.

In 1993, Ward carried the ball 65 times and was only sacked 10 times (!!!) which is 55 rushing carries. He missed one game with injury, so he rushed the ball exactly 5 times per game.

Let's compare that to Christian Ponder this season.

Through the first 8 games (left out final game vs. Clemson when he was obviously injured ), if you take out sacks, he had 53 carries, which is an average of 6.7 carries per game -- that's about a 33 percent increase in rushing carries. As you can see, Ponder reached roughly the same number of carries in just 8 games that Ward had in 11 games.

My point?

If you are going to run the type of offense currently in vogue (making the defense account for the QB run threat on every play), the quarterback must be an effective runner.  If he never runs, the defense doesn't have to respect the threat of him running.  As such, you don't have the luxury of grooming quarterbacks for three years so they can enter the fray as a redshirt junior.

You need AT LEAST two quarterbacks ready at all times. The chances of getting through a season without injury is small enough that it would be foolish to not have AT LEAST two quarterbacks ready to go. I would submit that  -- even if the opportunity doesn't present itself in the form of blowout games -- an offensive coordinate must force himself to give the second-stringer (and maybe third) meaningful playing time early on in his career given the high probability that he will be needed before he is "ready."

This should HELP recruiting. Instead of telling somebody -- "look, in the best case (for us), you're going to be holding a clipboard for the better part of three years." We can say this: "you may not be the starter for three years, but you're going to get important playing time early , we will develop special packages for you and given the type of offense we run, you could very well find yourself starting a game as early as your redshirt freshman year."

When Bowden heads out to pasture retires at the end of this season (hopefully), I hope he takes his quarterback succession plan with him.

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