Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

No Kid Gloves forFSU's Manuel; Coach Let Defenders Hit QB in Effort to Aid Decision-Making

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

No Kid Gloves forFSU's Manuel; Coach Let Defenders Hit QB in Effort to Aid Decision-Making

Article excerpt

Byline: Garry Smits

Ordinarily, a returning senior quarterback would be protected during spring practice.

Not Florida State's EJ Manuel this spring. When the Seminoles held two scrimmages, and a handful of other practices, the red jersey came off Manuel and love taps didn't count.

When Manuel takes the field at Doak Campbell Stadium at 4 p.m. today for the final Garnet and Gold spring game of his career, defenders likely won't be allowed to hit him, as is the case for almost every college football team in the spring games. But FSU coach Jimbo Fisher is hoping to see the results of allowing Manuel to absorb some contact during the spring.

Good decision-making would be a start.

Manuel is confident he will.

"You feel like it's real football," Manuel said about being fair game for the FSU defense after the second of the team's two scrimmages earlier this week. "You don't have to worry about guys letting up when they get close to you and then you form bad habits. Spring has been going well. I'm feeling comfortable. I'm feeling excited about [today] ... getting a chance to go out there and play full blast."

The reason Fisher allowed limited physical contact on his returning starter was simple: Manuel had a habit of holding the ball too long and took too many sacks last season when protection broke down. He was sacked 15 times in the last four games and had minus-41 rushing yards.

It's true that the offensive line suffered a slew of injuries and defenses didn't always respect FSU's meager running game (which was 10th in the ACC and 104th in the nation). But Manuel never blamed the offensive line or running backs and realized, like his coach, that allowing contact in the spring would only help him - as long as he didn't get hurt.

FSU fans can release that breath they've been holding since spring practice began. Manuel got through the spring just fine. …

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