Here’s something to think about this weekend. What happens if E.J. Manuel takes it on the chin -- or the shoulder or knee -- in the heat of battle this year? And what if that separation, tear or ACL puts him out for more than a game or two?
Ah, but you’ve probably already thought about that unthinkable scenario. And, like us, you can see a promising season go down the drain.
Nothing personal, Clint Trickett or Will Secord. It’s just that shifting from a battle-tested E.J. to breaking in a new guy against teams like Clemson, Miami and the gators…well, it’s not likely to score any new hardware for the Moore Center trophy case.
It’s not as if Manuel is bulletproof. His development was slowed by missing the 2009 and 2010 spring practices.
It also wouldn’t be the first time a Seminole season was derailed by a QB injury and not-ready-for-prime-time backup.
• 1998: Chris Weinke goes out for the season with a herniated disc. Gusty backup Marcus Outzen leads the Noles to a win over the gators, but isn’t up to the task in the title game against Tennessee. A healthy Weinke could well have been the difference.
• 2004: Christ Rix sprains his ankle against Clemson, opening the door for Wyatt Sexton. Young Wyatt won a few, but then went off the reservation with the Bonnaroo incident, got pepper sprayed, then was last seen wearing a gator sweatshirt. And you thought Rix was flakey?
• 2006: Xavier Lee starts for an injured Drew Weatherford at Maryland and Noles lose by a FG. Lee would have his glory moments (the win against Bama), but proved to be another poorly prepared backup. In 2007, Lee replaced Weatherford at Wake (another 3-point loss) and reportedly was calling plays that didn't exist in the playbook.
• 2007: Drew Weatherford’s injury against Virginia Tech was instrumental in denying Bowden his 300th victory. It also thrust a deer-in-the-headlights Christian Ponder into his FSU debut.
• 2009: Ponder misses the rest of the season with a separated shoulder after trying to make a tackle against Clemson.
• 2010: This time Ponder misses the entire Clemson game due to chronic problems with his throwing arm. Manuel’s shifty running and Dustin Hopkins' last second FG save the day.
Here’s the point. As much of a weapon as E.J.’s legs are, Jimbo must keep Manuel’s designed running plays to a minimum. Save those for crucial situations, like when the game's on the line. Manuel will brave enough injury risk just from the hits he’ll take while FSU’s rebuilt OL develops into a cohesive unit.
And though they’d never admit it, every opposing coach knows that if they can take Manuel out, they’ll have FSU right where they want ‘em.
So while we’d never try to tell Jimbo how to call plays, we do have some pithy advice for E.J.: Duck. Slide. Get out of bounds. And say a prayer before every game to ward off injury. Lord knows, every Nole fan will be doing the same.