Playing time at a premium for Manuel

September, 7, 2012
9/07/12
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EJ Manuel threw 22 passes in Week 1, nearly all of them on target, but just one going for a touchdown.

By the middle of the third quarter, Manuel, along with nearly all of Florida State's other starters, was resting comfortably on the sideline as Clint Trickett and the second-stringers enjoyed mop-up duty against Murray State.

It was an abridged debut, but it was also a good bit more work that Oklahoma State's starters got in an 84-0 blowout of Savannah State.

With Wake Forest and the start of ACC play looming in another week, Jimbo Fisher is left with something of a quandary.

On one hand, Fisher understands the ugliness that occurred in Stillwater, Okla. last week, and he knows his team is equally capable of embarrassing Savannah State on Saturday. He has no interest in showing up another coach, disheartening other players or, worse yet, risking injury to his key performers in a game should be an easy win.

On the other hand, Manuel needs work, and the only way for him to get it might involve running up the score.

"I'll get him reps, and I'll still get him numbers, make sure he gets his work and the things I think he needs to get done," Fisher said. "I hope we're that sharp that we can go out there and (rest guys)."

Florida State had little trouble besting Murray State last week, but to call the offense sharp -- particularly early on when Manuel was still in the game -- might be a bit of an overstatement.

Manuel's numbers suffered because of two drops by receivers that may have otherwise gone for big plays, but there were other concerns, too.

Twelve of FSU's first 19 plays on offense were designed passes, and the Seminoles averaged just 4.84 yards per play. The offensive attack shifted toward the run the rest of the way, with 32 of the final 58 plays designed runs, and the production increasing to 8.86 yards per play.

Moreover, Manuel was just 1-of-4 throwing on third down, and his lone third-down conversion came on a QB run.

It was likely little more than the typical rust that comes in a team's first few series of a new season, but Savannah State promises to do little to help knock off any more of that rust, which means the priorities for evaluating the FSU offense must change.

"We have to compete against ourselves," Fisher said. "We can't worry about our opponent. We just have to execute the plays that are called, have emotion in the game, and do the things we're coached to do."

That's Manuel's goal, too, and he said he's spent this week practicing as if he's going to play four quarters.

That, of course, would be an unlikely outcome -- and probably not one Fisher would care to see. But in a game like this, preparation is the key, and the execution is something of an afterthought.

"When you're out there on the field, it's like the national championship in our eyes," Manuel said. "It didn't matter if it's four quarters, three quarters, I felt in the flow of the game. I was still ready and engaged in the game."

Noles to watch

1. Manuel: The real season begins in one week, but it would be nice to see Florida State's fifth-year senior carve up Savannah State with extreme precision. FSU's offense didn't really take off last week until the second half, when Trickett and James Wilder Jr. took over. This week should be a chance for Manuel to pad some of his own stats.

2. Nick Moody: There wasn't much to criticize from FSU's defensive performance in Week 1, but Fisher was noticeably tepid in his analysis of Moody, starting his first game at linebacker after switching from safety this offseason, following the 69-3 win over Murray State. "Nick played OK," Fisher said. "He didn't play as well as Christian [Jones] but he played a solid game. There's some things we'll need to clean up."

3. Mario Edwards Jr. and Chris Casher: Fisher said at least one of the two will have his redshirt removed and see action in Saturday's game, and odds are both could see work. Given the mismatch, the pair could actually take a bulk of the snaps by game's end, which would provide some much-needed training if the freshmen are to step into bigger roles with Brandon Jenkins out.

Tigers to watch

1. Javonte Miller: It's hard to characterize any defender in an 84-0 loss as having had a solid game, but Miller did make eight tackles, including one for a loss, and turn in a handful of plays in the final quarter that coach Steve Davenport lauded as evidence his team never gave up.

2. John Wilson: Savannah State's secondary was torched to the tune of 287 yards through the air in the loss, but Wilson did manage seven tackles and an interception against Oklahoma State.

3. Edward Beatty: The Savannah State safety led the team in tackles last week with nine and forced a fumble.

By the numbers

4: That's the number of sacks for Bjoern Werner in last week's game, despite playing only a little more than a half of football. Werner finished his breakout 2011 season with seven sacks. He could top that total by the end of Game 2 in 2012.

21.5: That's the number of sacks for Brandon Jenkins in the past two seasons, and he added one more before leaving the game with a foot injury on Saturday. The injury, it turned out, was severe, and Jenkins will miss the rest of the season, leaving Cornellius Carradine, Giorgio Newberry and potentially one of FSU's highly touted freshman defensive ends to fill the void.

139: That's the total offense mustered by Savannah State in Week 1 against Oklahoma State, despite holding a time of possession edge of nearly 10 minutes. The Tigers averaged just 3 yards per passing attempt and just 1.4 yards per rush.

106: That's the number of rushing yards for James Wilder Jr. on just 12 carries in Week 1. FSU has had a runner go over the 100-yard mark in consecutive games just once since the start of the 2010 season (Devonta Freeman vs. Duke and Maryland in 2011).

0: That was the number of penalties called on Florida State's offense, the number of negative plays for the Seminoles, and the number of substitution issues for the offense in Week 1. For a unit that struggled mightily to find any sort of cohesion in 2011, it marked a big step forward, regardless of the opponent.

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