ACC: E.J. Manuel

ACC Week 6: Did you know?

October, 4, 2013
Here a handful of statistical nuggets, with a tip of the cap, as always, to ESPN Stats & Info and sports information departments across the conference.

MARYLAND: Maryland leads the FBS in defensive expected points on passing plays (+69.5), and is one of two teams to allow just one passing touchdown. Defensive EPA is a measure of the expected points that a defense contributes to its net points in a game as a result of controlling field position, forcing turnovers and stopping its opponents.

FLORIDA STATE: Quarterback Jameis Winston has posted a Total QBR of 92.0, fourth highest among FBS quarterbacks. He has had at least two pass touchdowns in all four games and leads the ACC with 12. Winston has the fourth-best completion percentage (73.6 percent) and third-most yards per attempt (11.5) in the FBS. Last season, EJ Manuel had a Total QBR of 70.0, 26th among qualified quarterbacks.

VIRGINIA: The Cavaliers defense has posted back-to-back weeks of limiting opponents to less than 200 yards of offense for the first time since 1972. Virginia held VMI to 79 yards and Pitt to 199. When Virginia last accomplished this 41 years ago, it held Vanderbilt to 188 yards and VMI to 122. The Cavaliers area leading the nation in forcing three-and-outs, at 8.5 per game. Their third-down defense ranks No. 5 nationally, holding opponents to a .239 success rate.

NORTH CAROLINA: Quarterback Bryn Renner is one of six scholarship Tar Heels from Virginia, hailing from West Springfield. His father, Bill, was a Hokies punter from 1979-82 before playing for the Green Bay Packers. This will mark Renner's 30th career start. He leads the ACC and is 24th nationally in passing yards (279.3 ypg). His seven touchdown passes this year have given him 61 for his career, and he is seven away from Darian Durant's school record of 68.

VIRGINIA TECH: The Hokies picked off two passes in last week's upset win at Georgia Tech, giving them 11 for the season, the most in the nation. They had 13 all of last season. Since the start of the 200 season, however, they have tallied 251 interceptions, which are 20 more than any other FBS team during that time span. Not surprisingly, Virginia Tech's pass defense is tops in the ACC, surrendering just 138.2 yards per game through the air. Things may only get better for the Hokies if cornerback Antone Exum plays after being cleared to practice this week following his offseason knee injury.

BOSTON COLLEGE: The Eagles may just be the most disciplined team in the country under new head coach Steve Addazio. They have been penalized just eight times through four games, good for the nation's top mark (2.0 ppg). BC also leads the nation in fewest penalty yards per game (22.25).

NC STATE: The Wolfpack defense has been strong in the fourth quarter this season, giving up an average of 35.8 rushing yards, 38.5 passing yards and 74.3 yards of total offense over 60 total minutes of fourth-quarter action in 2013. NC State has forced five punts and five turnovers in 14 fourth-quarter possessions.

WAKE FOREST: Coach Jim Grobe is 31-10 for his career in games against fellow North Carolina schools, but he is just 6-6 against NC State, which has the best record against him among schools in-state. Grobe is three wins away from becoming the winningest coach in Demon Deacon history, as his 75 are two behind "Peahead" Walker.

CLEMSON: The Tigers are one of three FBS teams that have not thrown an interception yet. New Mexico and Oregon are the others. Of those three, Clemson has by far the most pass attempts (154). Oregon has 116, New Mexico has 54. Clemson has committed just two turnovers overall this season, tied for the fewest in FBS with Louisville and Oregon. Clemson also has 28 offensive touchdowns on plays of 25 yards or more since the start of last season, most in the ACC and tied for fourth-most in the FBS. The Tigers will be making their first trip to New York since Nov. 8, 1952, when they played Fordham to a 12-12 tie. Their only other game in the Empire State was an Oct. 2, 1937 loss to Army, 21-6.

SYRACUSE: The Orange are looking for their first win against an AP top-three team since 1984, when Dick MacPherson’s team knocked off Tom Osborne’s No. 1 Nebraska. Syracuse is 0-8 against AP top-three teams since then. Quarterback Terrel Hunt hasn’t exactly been tested yet, but he’s performed well in his limited action so far. Hunt has a 98.9 Total QBR on the year, but most of his participation came in two games: against Tulane and FCS school Wagner.

GEORGIA TECH: The Yellow Jackets will be playing their fourth conference game of the season, while Miami has yet to play its first ACC game. Georgia Tech is one of four schools in the FBS that has already played three or more conference games. The others: Pitt (2-1 ACC), Florida Atlantic (0-3 CUSA) and Air Force (0-4 MWC). To put it in perspective, there are 39 FBS teams that have yet to play a conference game this season (Note: This excludes schools transitioning to FBS).

MIAMI: Quarterback Stephen Morris has an 82.4 Total QBR in the first half and an ACC-low 10.3 Total QBR in the second half this season. The Hurricanes are 4-0 for the first time since 2004, when they started out 6-0 and climbed to No. 3 in the AP poll. They are also one of four schools to rank in the top 10 in the FBS in both scoring offense (ninth) and scoring defense (seventh).

Opening camp: Florida State

August, 6, 2012
As ACC teams begin to start practicing again, Heather and I will have a quick preview of each team to get you caught up on the basics. Next up to open camp ...

School: Florida State.

Start date: Today.

Predicted finish at media days: First, Atlantic Division.

Biggest storyline: Can the Seminoles match increased expectations this year? It seems like we have been waiting on Florida State to return to its rightful place among the elite for ages now. Many thought last year was going to be the year, as the Seminoles were picked to win the Atlantic and started the season ranked No. 5 in the coaches' poll and No. 6 in the AP poll. But Florida State faltered to an 8-4 record in the regular season and went 5-3 in conference, tied with Wake Forest for second in the Atlantic. Not exactly the return everybody imagined. Headed into this year, expectations are high once again not only in the ACC but nationally as well. Florida State starts the season ranked No. 7 in the coaches' poll, so there clearly is confidence that THIS will now be the year of the Seminole. Florida State has 17 starters returning, including quarterback EJ Manuel and one of the most talented defensive fronts in the nation. The time is now for this team.

Biggest position battle: Cornerback. With the dismissal of three-year starter Greg Reid, that position is now up for grabs headed into fall camp. Unfortunately for the Seminoles, this position went from one of strength to one of major question marks. None of the potential replacements has much in the way of game experience. Among the options: sophomores Tyler Hunter and Nick Waisome, who were expected to compete for the top nickelback job. There also is freshman Ronald Darby, who ran track in high school. As for returner, where Reid excelled, potential options include Darby, freshman Marvin Bracy, sophomore Karlos Williams and safety Lamarcus Joyner.

Who needs to step up: The receivers. Coach Jimbo Fisher said during ACC media days that while he loves all the depth he has at receiver and tight end, what he really wants to do is identify the playmakers he can count on the most for this season. Who will make the big plays and big catches on a consistent basis in the group? Rashad Greene? Rodney Smith? Christian Green? Willie Haulstead? And where does Bracy fit in? It will be interesting to see whether the Seminoles need a few receivers to emerge as the go-to targets or whether they will continue to throw to a wide variety of players.

NoleNation links: ACC media day

July, 23, 2012
David M. Hale writes: Florida State expounds on its Twitter ban for players, talks about the recruitment of Penn State players, and gives an update on Greg Reid's status at ACC media day.

Hale writes: Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden and his family are not celebrating the revocation of 111 wins by former Penn State coach Joe Paterno, which puts Bowden atop the all-time wins list.

Hale writes Insider: Despite not having won the conference since 2005, the Seminoles were the overwhelming pick as ACC champion in the preseason media poll.

Hale writes Insider: Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel has been linked with N.C. State quarterback Mike Glennon since high school, most recently at the Elite 11 finals in Southern California.

Corey Dowlar writes Insider: Recent Florida State tight end commit Christian Morgan enjoyed working on new techniques with Florida State's staff at the Jimbo Fisher Camp.

NoleNation links: Room to grow for Manuel

July, 10, 2012
NoleNation has more coverage of the Florida State Seminoles:

David Hale writes Insider: FSU QB E.J. Manuel has room to grow in his senior year. To get a perspective on his development, NoleNation talked with former FSU QB Danny Kanell.

Carrying the spear Insider: In today's edition of the series, David Hale looks at LT Cameron Erving. The sophomore will play a crucial role for the Seminoles' offense in 2012.
You've heard it before and you'll hear it again: If Florida State wants to return to be part of the nation's elite this season, the Seminoles' offensive line will have to step up.

The latest to examine FSU's protection is K.C. Joyner, also known as "The Football Scientist."

Joyner points out that, Insider during the golden era of Bobby Bowden's teams (1987-2000), the Seminoles' formula was to score 38 points per game and hold the opposition to 15. FSU's offense, which averaged 30.6 points per game last season, fell short.

Joyner says that the talent is there at the skill positions to close the gap this season.
It starts with the fact the Seminoles racked up 8.7 yards per pass attempt (YPA) last season, a total that was tied for seventh in the FBS. To put this another way, the Florida State passing offense was tied with an Andrew Luck-led Stanford Cardinal offense in this category and finished ahead of such powerhouse passing teams as the Boise State Broncos, West Virginia Mountaineers, Arkansas Razorbacks and USC Trojans.

A repeat of this performance looks to be very possible given that this unit will return starting quarterback EJ Manuel, as well as all but one of the Seminoles who posted double-digit receptions in 2011.

Florida State will also have the services of Willie Haulstead, a talented receiver who ranked seventh in the ACC in yards per reception in 2010 but missed the 2011 season with a concussion, and Kelvin Benjamin, a 6-foot-6, 242-pound redshirt freshman wideout who was described in his ESPN recruiting profile as a "one-on-one nightmare on fades, red zone shots and underneath slants and crossing routes."

The key, of course, is the offensive line, which was tied for 112th in the nation last season in sacks allowed. But Joyner says that the run-blocking was better than last season's numbers would have indicated.

Improvements up front are obviously key, but the offense still averaged more than 30 points per game last season. Better luck and performance up front could be the key for FSU to take the next step this season.
It's been stated before in this space and it'll be stated again: There's nothing like seeing the disparity among mock drafts roughly a year before said drafts take place.

So it goes with 2013, which may have an ACC player at the center of debate, depending on the 2012 season.'s Rob Rang has Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel as the No. 2 overall pick in his early mock, a position I have to think even the most optimistic of Seminoles fans are surprised to see. Manuel was 30th on's Bucky Brooks' list of 30-best prospects. Brooks' colleague, Chad Reuter, has Manuel as the No. 3 quarterback. But the FSU signal-caller was not featured in most of the mocks we looked at last week.

Rang, who gives the Bills the No. 2 pick next year, writes:
Considering the gains the Bills made on the defensive side of the ball over the offseason, some expect them to make the playoffs in 2013. Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't universally regarded by scouts as a starting-caliber NFL quarterback. Should Fitzpatrick and the Bills' offense fail to match the new Buffalo defense, an immediate change is possible. Manuel has the physical tools to excite a scouting staff and has flashed superstar ability in a spread offense at FSU similar to the one Buffalo uses.

There has been a lot of discussion as to whether Manuel is the guy who can help bring FSU back into the national-title conversation this season. Coach Jimbo Fisher was presented with a question on an ACC teleconference nearly two weeks ago about whether Manuel would need to have a player of the year-type campaign for the offense to take off the way everyone around the program would like it to.

"No, I don't think so," Fisher said. "I think he has the ability to do that. The key is we play well around him. We first of all take care of our needs up front, and we get better up front and allow us to function. I think we have to find the receiver who is a guy that's going to go catch 70 balls, and the back that's going to be able to tote it and make the plays at the end and so forth, and the tight end create things. I think he will.

"When I looked at his numbers at the end, he didn't play perfect, but he did pretty good with the situations we had around him. And I don't necessarily think that's true, especially with the capabilities we have. I think we'll be able to run the football much better. Make more plays out there, and play great defense and special teams. I think he can, but I don't think he has to."

How Manuel's offensive teammates play will go a long way toward settling the debate around him.
We are now a week removed from the start of the 2012 NFL draft, which means it is already time to look ahead and wonder who could be in position to make some coin for himself at this time next year.

Scouts Inc.'s Todd McShay has delivered his first 2013 mock , and five ACC players make the cut, led by NC State interception machine David Amerson at No. 11.

North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper (No. 16), Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas (No. 17), UNC's Kevin Reddick (No. 26) and Virginia's Oday Aboushi (No. 27) round out the list.

One of the most interesting parts of projecting drafts so far out is seeing the disparity among stocks for some underclassmen.'s Andrew Perfloff has Amerson going third in his early mock and has Florida State's Xavier Rhodes and Brandon Jenkins at Nos. 7 and 19, respectively. The FSU duo doesn't make Tony Pauline's list on of the top 32 prospects.

The only Seminole on Bucky Brooks' list of the 30-best prospects is FSU QB E.J. Manuel.

Most are in agreement that Amerson, at this point in time, can be a first round pick. He appears at No. 20 on Pauline's list and No. 9 on Brooks'.'s Chad Reuter has Amerson as the top draft-eligible cornerback, and has him as the top 2014 corner. (CBS ranks by class; Amerson will be a junior during the 2012 season). also has the Tar Heels' Cooper as the top guard, while he is No. 4 on Reuter's list. Pauline has him as the eighth-best overall prospect in the 2013 class. Cooper's UNC teammate, Reddick, is another name frequently popping up on draft lists, with both Brooks and Pauline labeling him as the No. 22 overall prospect and CBS and Reuter calling him the No. 2 and No. 3 inside linebacker prospect, respectively. (At the top of Reuter's list is Alabama underclassman C.J. Mosley, who is grouped with the 2014 class on CBS.)

Reuters also has FSU's Manuel as the No. 3 quarterback prospect on a five-man list that doesn't include the Hokies' Thomas, who is No. 1 among 2014 signal-callers on' list.
Our Travis Haney puts the spotlight on specific position groups for five different elite programs, saying these are the units that are key to each squad fulfilling expectations in 2012.

Not surprisingly, Florida State's running backs crack the list .
It was a carousel last year, with six backs getting more than 23 carries. That's not counting quarterback EJ Manuel, who ran 110 times -- only 10 fewer than the team's leading rusher, Devonta Freeman. Freeman, who ran for 579 yards and eight touchdowns, eventually won the job as a freshman. The half-dozen backs rushed for 4.2 yards a carry, but the coaches felt that could have been better.

The competition was opened up this spring, and thrust even wider by injuries to Freeman and oft-banged-up senior Chris Thompson. Sophomore James Wilder, a larger candidate at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, could be a possible breakout back. Early enrollee Mario Pender could become a factor in the fall, too. Freeman showed last year that coach Jimbo Fisher and his staff are not afraid to play a freshman.

It's not all on the backs; FSU is still going to be extremely young along the offensive line. It could start as many as three sophomores up front.

The Seminoles ranked 105th last season in rushing yards per carry. They started four true freshmen offensive linemen in the Champs Sports Bowl win over Notre Dame. And they had way too many three-and-outs to balance their offense. If FSU wants to finally live up to the annual hype, it will need a boost from the backfield this season.
Six ACC schools will conclude their spring seasons Saturday with intrasquad scrimmages open to the public. And, in the case of Miami, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida State and Clemson, on ESPN3, too. (FSU's will also air on ESPNU.)

Let's take a quick look at what to look for as each squad unveils its latest look for 2012:

Wake Forest (1 p.m.)
For the first time during coach Jim Grobe's 12-year tenure, the Demon Deacons' spring game will be an actual game -- two teams facing off at BB&T Field. Previously, Wake would hold a controlled scrimmage between the offense and defense. Tanner Price returns to lead the offense, looking to build off his 3,000-yard sophomore season from 2011. Keep an eye on the offensive line, which is replacing four starters from last season's squad.

Miami (2 p.m.)
Can Ryan Williams continue his stellar spring and make things interesting upon Stephen Morris' return for fall camp? The Memphis transfer has drawn rave reviews thus far while Morris recovers from back surgery, and the starting job will likely be anything but a sure thing for Morris once he returns. A poor performance in the Hurriacnes' second scrimmage this spring left a bad taste in Williams' mouth following a stellar showing in scrimmage No. 1, and he'll look to end the spring on a strong note Saturday.

Virginia (2:15 p.m.)
Can the Cavaliers capitalize on the big play? That's not a question just for the offense, either. Yes, Michael Rocco is back throwing the football again this season, but he lost leading receiver Kris Burd. The replacements, including returning starter Tim Smith, create matchup problems with their speed. How they perform and respond against a secondary replacing three starters is something to keep an eye on.

North Carolina (3 p.m.)
How fast can the Tar Heels adjust to new coach Larry Fedora's pace? The program opened the spring right after NCAA sanctions were announced, providing closure before the official start of a new era. Now, it's about keeping up to speed on offense, where UNC will look to resemble Southern Miss' 74.4 plays per game last season, a bump up from the Heels' 62.5 in 2011.

Clemson (4 p.m.)
All anyone wants to talk about is the defense after the Tigers gave up 70 points in an Orange Bowl loss to West Virginia. And new coordinator Brent Venables should have more to work with, especially at linebacker. Preventing the big play will be key, as will be giving Tajh Boyd and the rest of Clemson's skill players the freedom to operate as the squad replaces three starters on the offensive line.

Florida State (4 p.m.)
We know what the defense is capable of. And EJ Manuel is back for a second full season under center. But can the Seminoles protect him? Going off that, can they establish a consistent ground game? Too many three-and-outs hindered FSU last season, which ended with four freshman offensive line starters in the Champs Sports Bowl win against Notre Dame. The maturation of that unit can go a long way toward the Seminoles fulfilling expectations in 2012.

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 4, 2012
Happy Opening Day ... kind of.

Instant analysis: FSU 18, Notre Dame 14

December, 29, 2011

ORLANDO, Fla. — Florida State scored 15 points in the final frame to storm back and beat Notre Dame 18-14 to win the Champs Sports Bowl. Here's how it went down:

Turning point: In a less-than-two-minute span to start the fourth quarter, Florida State made up for the first three. EJ Manuel hit Bert Reed for an 18-yard score, Nigel Bradham picked off Andrew Hendrix on the ensuing drive and Manuel then hit Rashad Greene for a 15-yard score to make it 15-14 with 13:18 left. Twelve quick points after just three through the first 45 minutes were enough for the Seminoles.

Stat of the game: Pick your poison: Ten combined penalties or four combined turnovers? This game was sloppy on both ends for three quarters, and Florida State was able to capitalize on the miscues at the end and come out victorious.

Player of the game: Greene proved a tough man to stop in the second half. He finished the game with five catches for 99 yards and a touchdown, including an outstanding 42-yard grab that he bobbled and hung onto near the sideline on a third-and-6 in the fourth quarter. (It was challenged and upheld.)

Second guessing: Tommy Rees threw two interceptions in the end zone and might have had a third if not for a spectacular touchdown grab by Michael Floyd. In a game that was dominated by both defenses, Notre Dame simply could not afford to give away its precious few opportunities.

What it means: Florida State got its ninth victory and will likely finish the season ranked. Notre Dame falls to 8-5, its same record as last season, and questions will continue to mount about the quarterback position, which has nearly as many questions to end the season as it did to begin.

Record performance: Jamoris Slaughter's two sacks were two more than he had his entire career and were a Champs Sports Bowl record. The 68,305 in attendance made up the bowl's biggest crowd since it moved to Orlando.

Less than two minutes later, FSU leads

December, 29, 2011
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Florida State entered the fourth quarter trailing 14-3. Naturally, it has scored two touchdowns in the first 1:42 of the final frame, giving the Seminoles a 15-14 lead with 13:18 left.

E.J. Manuel hit Bert Reed for an 18-yard strike on the quarter's first play, Nigel Bradham picked off Andrew Hendrix four plays later and, just like that, Manuel hit Rashad Greene with a 15-yard touchdown pass on the drive's second play.

For a game lacking in offense most of the way, we have ourselves a thriller here with just more than 13 minutes left.
ORLANDO, Fla. — Bowl season has found its best play of 2011.

Michael Floyd's 5-yard touchdown grab was anything but simple, as Tommy Rees' fade pass was underthrown and nearly picked off by Greg Reid. Floyd managed to pry it loose from Reid before engaging in a juggling act — all the while absorbing a hit from Nigel Bradham just as he secured the ball.

Touchdown, Irish.

Floyd's 100th catch of the season made it 14-0 Notre Dame, which is anything but your conventional two-score lead in a game that has lacked for offensive fire power.

The Seminoles appeared to be on the verge of closing the gap after Lamarcus Joyner's 77-yard kickoff return, but the offense followed with a three-and-out that was punctuated by a — you guessed it — sack of EJ Manuel, this time by Aaron Lynch for a loss of 15.

Dustin Hopkins kicked a 42-yard field goal to get FSU on the board and cut the lead to 14-3.

The Irish offense, meanwhile, went with both quarterbacks on its first drive of the half, putting Andrew Hendrix in at the 23 yard line. He carried it three times for 18 yards before Rees entered at first-and-goal from the 5, setting up the touchdown play.

George Atkinson deserves credit for setting the Irish up so well with a 37-yard kickoff return to open the half, as well as stopping Joyner from going all the way on the ensuing kickoff.

FSU offense struggling mightily

December, 29, 2011
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Four sacks, two false starts, one surrendered touchdown and 3.16 yards per play.

Not the best first half for Florida State's offense.

E.J. Manuel's 23-yard pass to Kenny Shaw helped the Seminoles reach 79 yards of offense this half, but Manuel has been running around like a madman as the Notre Dame front-seven makes its presence felt in the backfield.

As a team, FSU has 9 rushing yards on 14 carries.

Chad Abram's sneak on a fake punt went for nearly 4 yards, but that came up inches short of a first down.

The Seminoles need to get creative if they ever want to move the ball with any sort of consistency the rest of the way.

1Q: Notre Dame 7, FSU 0

December, 29, 2011
ORLANDO, Fla. -- A red zone turnover, an Aaron Lynch penalty ... typical Notre Dame game, right?

Not so fast.

Manti Te'o forced a Devonta Freeman fumble and Zeke Motta scooped it up and scored a 29-yard touchdown to provide the difference after the first quarter, as the Irish lead Florida State 7-0. The score came one play after Tommy Rees fired a pick to Lamarcus Joyner in the end zone on first-and-goal.

Andrew Hendrix entered on Notre Dame's third series and brought the Irish to the Seminoles' 30 before David Ruffer's field goal attempt sailed wide right.

Defensively, the Irish front-seven has made life miserable for E.J. Manuel, recording a pair of sacks and forcing the Seminoles to fight for every yard. They have just 18 total yards so far and will need to make some adjustments if they want any hope of handling Notre Dame's pass rush.