The 2012 college football season is finally upon us. After a seemingly never ending summer of five hour baseball games, non-stop WNBA action, and heart pounding Olympic cycling, it’s about time to lace up the cleats and get to work. With fall camp officially getting underway today in Tallahassee, the 2012 Florida State Seminoles are focused on bringing home their first ACC championship since 2005. With their most talented team in nearly a decade, the Noles also figure to contend for the BCS title and a return to the top of the college football world where they stood for so long.
Leading up to the opening kickoff Sept. 1 against Murray State, I’ll be breaking down each position group, noting the key returners and key newcomers for that position. Today, we’ll look at the field general: the quarterback.
Four years ago, then-FSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher hand-picked highly touted Virginia Beach product EJ Manuel to be his quarterback of the future. Fast forward to 2012, and Manuel is now a redshirt senior with loads of experience and loads of talent. He enters the 2012 season as one of the most efficient passers in Florida State history, and threw for 2,666 yards last year with 18 TDs and only 8 interceptions. His current streak of 121 passing attempts without an interception dating back to last season is impressive to say the least. Manuel has been plagued by injuries throughout his career, but all signs point the quarterback being healthy, ready to go, and more focused than ever.
Backing up Manuel are redshirt sophomore Clint Trickett, redshirt freshman Jacob Coker, and highly touted true freshman Jameis Winston. Trickett, son of offensive line coach Rick Trickett, saw time last year after Manuel went down with a shoulder injury. Trickett impressed in the spring game in April, where he opened the game with a 75-yard touchdown strike to junior receiver Greg Dent on the first play from scrimmage.
Redshirt freshman Jacob Coker has yet to take a snap in an actual college game, but I had a chance to see him play at the spring game and I liked what he brought to the field. He has the frame of a Ryan Mallett (6’6 – 227), but can move in the pocket and is great on the run. He possesses all the physical tools you would want in a big time QB, and has a real shot to push Trickett for the #2 spot behind Manuel this fall. With Trickett’s work ethic and Coker’s talent, this should be a fun battle to watch throughout the season.
Highly touted freshman Jameis Winston (Hueytown, Ala.) rounds out the group. (See Key Newcomer, below) Winston chose FSU over in-state SEC powers Alabama and Auburn on national signing day back in February. There is no word yet on whether or not Winston will take a redshirt this fall.
You could argue that Clint Trickett qualifies as the key returner to this unit, given the fact that he was thrown to the wolves when EJ Manuel went down against Oklahoma and is thought by many to snag the backup role once again this fall. Although the Noles would go on to lose their next two games (at Clemson, at Wake Forest) with Trickett under center, his game experience and solid spring could prove valuable to FSU should Manuel go down again. Remember now, I said you could argue for Clint Trickett here, but clearly the key returner at QB for 2012 is Manuel. With a stacked receiving corps, a fully healthy EJ Manuel could cause nightmares for opposing defenses this season. The keys to his (and FSU’s) success will rest upon Manuel’s ability to remain healthy and the play of his young offensive line. If everything comes together (injury free, solid O-Line play) in Manuel’s final season at FSU, it should be one to remember in Tallahassee.
While he might not see much (or any) time on the field this season, ESPNU #1 rated QB Jameis Winston has to get the nod here for key newcomer. Winston, a Hueytown (Ala.) native, has all the intangibles to be a future star at the college level: a magnetic personality, strong leadership skills, and tons of talent. The key words to remember here are “future star.” With a five-star rating comes loads of hype, and fair or not, mountains of expectations. Let’s allow the kid take a few snaps first before we anoint him “the next Charlie Ward.” Nole fans remember all too well how our last five-star QB recruit panned out. (“X-Savior” Lee, anyone?) Winston’s biggest contribution to the Noles this year might just be the fact that many highly ranked recruits may want to play alongside the top-ranked QB and help FSU return to glory. Winston’s time to shine on the field will come, just probably not this season.
Next Up: Running Backs