Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel’s winning performance against Duke on Saturday was a snapshot of what the Seminoles are capable of when the face of their offense is healthy and back in the starting lineup. That’s not a knock on backup quarterback Clint Trickett, who had impressive, respectable performances against ranked opponents while filling in for the injured Manuel, but if you ask Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, Manuel’s return to the lineup is integral in the team’s success.
“It has a lot to do with it,” Fisher said. “Using your quarterback and a guy of his caliber really affects your team. He does erase a lot of mistakes with his legs and has the ability to make plays with his leadership and toughness. It was one great game; hopefully he can play that way all year. He was playing that way when he got hurt.”
Manuel had three completions of at least 50 yards in the first quarter against Duke and finished with two touchdowns, no interceptions and 239 yards on just 9 of 14 passing. He was also the second-leading rusher on the team that day with 62 yards and two touchdowns. Fisher said Manuel, who has been struggling with a shoulder injury since the Oklahoma game, is “getting pretty close to 100 percent.”
Manuel has hardly been the only key player on Florida State’s roster to suffer an injury this year. The offensive line has been dealing with injuries since this past spring, top tailback Chris Thompson broke his back and numerous other players have been missing from the lineup on a consistent basis. While it might be difficult for Florida State fans not to wonder what could have been this season had the roster stayed healthy, Fisher said he’s not playing the “what-if” game.
“I don’t worry about that,” he said. “At the end, you may reflect back on things that have happened, but you understand as a coach that is part of athletics. Injuries are a part of it. We have so few seniors and a limited number of juniors that our team is mainly freshmen and sophomores. Your depth issues, in a year or two hopefully we can overcome those situations better than we have. As a coach you can’t dwell on it. You have to dwell on the future.”