Heading into the first week of the season and an opener with Georgia Tech on Saturday, the Seminoles were a prime subject of an ACC media teleconference call on Tuesday morning.
On the call from the ACC Network were three analysts — two of them being former FSU quarterback E.J. Manuel and former quarterback coach and offensive coordinator Mark Richt. The familiar faces to Noles faithful gave their take on the 2020 squad, James Blackman, and the college football season as a whole.
“These guys know how to score points. The quarterback play has been fantastic (under head coach Mike Norvell at other schools),” Richt said. “I think a lot of time young quarterbacks hold onto the ball too long, so if James has learned anything it should be to get the ball out quick.”
A molder of several of the most successful passers in school history during the 1990’s, Richt dove deeper on his opinion of the redshirt junior Blackman. Richt said that under head coach Bobby Bowden, the only time they really changed up the offense was in 1992. He also said that when someone like Danny Kanell had practiced an offense for two years before starting, it was one of the things that made him a good quarterback. “Blackman hasn’t had that. Hopefully he’ll get that stability here that he needs.”
No one knows what it is like to be under the pressure of being Florida State’s starting quarterback like Manuel, who started 31 games in the garnet and gold. “I’ve spoken to James many times off the record, I think this year we’ll see a new and improved guy mentally, more so than just the physical aspects,” said Manuel.
As has been noted, Blackman has had four different offensive coordinators during his time at FSU. Manuel had a unique perspective on the challenges that can present, having been stuck in the same situation with four play-callers in four seasons in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills.
“It’s tough- you have to change your language. As a quarterback, you have to really sit and learn that stuff. It does slow you down a half-second, which as we all know, that half-second can sometimes cost you,” Manuel explained. “It can cost you a sack, it can cost you an interception, it can cost you accuracy on your throws.”
“Then also on the flip side, your receiver is not on the same page, because he is learning a new offense. It’s not just all on the quarterback, and I think that’s where people get it confused sometimes, it’s not just all on James,” said Manuel. “The guys around him also have to do the same amount of studying.”
Heading to the other side of the ball, Richt posited a concern for defenses across the country after the incomplete offseason.
“The offseason is crucially important, especially spring ball, working on the fundamentals of tackling and all those things.”
“That’s gonna be the key to everyone’s defense this year,” Richt continued. “Did you have enough time to simulate tackling? Until you start tackling bodies, you’re not going to be very good at it.”
Finally, Manuel shared his thoughts on the Noles overall outlook this year and in the future under Norvell.
“I think for Coach Norvell, I’m not gonna put a ton of pressure on him. I think it is unfair the situation he’s come into [with the pandemic]. Having more wins than losses, I think a winning record would be excellent for him,” said Manuel. “I do expect the defense to play extremely well...I’ll look to see less bonehead mistakes, less pre-snap penalties.”