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There and Back Again: An EJ Tale

Coming in as a freshman, EJ Manuel was a prized recruit - an elite five star dual threat QB who made coaches salivate, gave defensive coordinators headaches, and permitted fans to dream of the future world he would author with both his arms and his legs. In a word, EJ was Multiple. He could do it all. The pride of FSU and Jimbo Fisher, EJ would bring Florida State back to where we belonged. To do this... Jimbo would use a Scheme:

One Scheme to rule them all, One Scheme to find them, One Scheme to bring them all, And in the darkness bind them

Jimbo made his name, and ring (LAUGH), tailoring his offenses to his quarterbacks strengths. Using an intricate playbook filled with checks, motions and audibles, he summed up his all-ruling scheme with one word: Multiple.

One Multiple to rule them all, One Multiple to YEAH YEAH I KNOW THAT DOESN'T WORK AS WELL

Fast forward a couple years, and we notice that our beloved protagonist is nowhere to be found? The uber-talented five star is now a 5th year Senior, quiet on the sideline. His coach has on a parka and sunglasses, and is confusedly pointing his clipboard at the field mouthing to him, "WHYYYYY???". Though piling up stats, his situational play had diminished the confidence of the coaches and fans. I don't know when, but somewhere along the line there was a breakdown. A communication breakdown. A learning breakdown. A leadership breakdown. Something. While the Scheme had taken hold, the Precious, Manuel was unable to handle it's power. He was unable to wield it's infinite MULTIPLENESS. Unable to spin out of it's grasp (HAHA). And so somewhere along the line he went from being the hope of the world to being the wily keeper of it's potential destroyer. Capable of being good in spurts, but ultimately his play was much too bipolar, and he became something else.

Smaaaanuel...Why does he cry, Smanuel?

Cruel men hurts us. Master Fisher tricksed us.

Master betrayed us. Filthy little Hobbitses.

[End Screenplay]

I do not know exactly when, but somewhere along the line we realized that EJ was not exactly everything he was built up to be. And it was not just that he did not pan out as the QB he was billed, he also was not the leader FSU needed. EJ's leadership capabilities was a big question when he was given the reigns fulltime - whether he could be the heart and soul of the team and take us to the promise land. We knew in 2009 that Jimbo's offense puts the QB front and center as the compass of the team. Ponder led superbly and we all felt that this Jimbo thing could actually work. But after 2 years, it is obvious that EJ could not handle the pressures and responsibilities required of Jimbo's offense, and we were stuck with it due to the lack of capable backups.

Having had classes/study sessions with him and simply watching him on the sideline during games, it's pretty evident he is an introvert. While not necessarily a death knell for a QB, it is definitely not the most desirable trait for the highest profile position on one of the nations highest profile programs. Granted, my personal opinion of him is derived mainly from encounters prior to his Rs. Jr. year meaning Ponder was still on the team, but Ponder was not with us in the classroom. While he was always respectful and took his classes seriously, Manuel struck me as a lead by example type of guy that works hard and gains the respect of his teammates, but is not one that players necessarily gravitate towards.

To sum things up, whether due to Fisher or not, there are a few things I can say about EJ:
A) Juicy Sweet - EJ feasted on weak opponents. Fish. He will be, at least statistically, one of the best QB's in FSU and ACC history. Personally, I see this in the same light as Duke's WR being the best in ACC history after surpassing Peter Warrick and S. Morris owning the ACC record for most passing yards in a game.
2) Smanuel - His on-field play did not pan out to his 5-star billing except for the flashes of talent that proved few and far between. If anything, when he did show his potential it made us all even more angry because it showed how consistently he was underperforming.
D) The Precious Effect - Save Clemson (and their awful D), his on-field play and sideline attitude never displayed the internal fortitude needed to step on opponents throats and not let up when they beg for mercy. After 95% of drives he goes to the sideline and stands by Jimbo or sits on the bench. That's it. Those who ever had seats near the field can attest to this.

So now we're back to looking to the future. Again. In my opinion, if Trickett starts next year then Jimbo has failed to develop either Coker or Winston to a respectable degree, because both have a ceiling about ten times higher (no offense Trick). We know the coaches trusted Winston's knowledge of the playbook enough to have him signal in all of the offensive plays this year, and they have raved about his ability to grasp concepts that seemingly still evade EJ (uhhh...zone what?).

Coker has had a year to pull away from Winston and may have a better grasp on the offense right now. But he also has a lower ceiling and matches Winston with zero real game experience. And while Coker's personality and leadership style has not been excessively noted among media or coaches, anyone who has spent any time with Winston (no more than 10 minutes myself) will tell you that he is everything you want in a QB. Demeanor-wise, he is the ideal QB and is without a doubt an established leader among the underclassmen. Mature beyond his years. Fiery. Confident. Even a little cocky on the field... while remaining humble outside of practice. The fact that he is 6'4 235 as a Freshman and will know most of the playbook is icing on the cake.

Who's going to win the battle next year? I don't know. But I do know that if it is indeed Winston, FSU fans can rest easy that at present, he seems to bring something to the table that EJ lacked. He was also the top-ranked QB in the nation. Five stars. Supremely talented. He's come to take FSU back to where we belong. And there we are. Back again.

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