Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
There is something different about Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder this year -- something his teammates have noticed that wasn't there last season.
Ponder has officially assumed ownership of Florida State's offense and his role as team leader.
"He's like a veteran to us now," said receiver Louis Givens. "We're all looking for him to tell us what to do. He's like coach (Jimbo) Fisher when coach Fisher is not around."
Ponder takes that as a compliment, and his new demeanor has been intentional.
"I've consciously done it," he said. "I've never grown up really vocal, and it kind of showed last season, but as the leader of the offense I have to be more vocal, I have to get on guys who aren't doing the right thing. It's very important for me to do so. I've kind of had to get used to it a little bit. It's not in my nature, but I think I've done a pretty good job and I've taken ownership of this team."
Ponder took advantage of E.J. Manuel's absence this spring, as Manuel injured his finger in the first spring practice and left the majority of reps to Ponder. Now, when the players go through their 7-on-7s three times a week, Ponder is calling his own plays.
"I know basically the whole offense in and out," he said. "I'm telling guys what they need to do, plays they need to run. I'm as comfortable as ever. It's made me more confident in myself. I've gotten to the point as well where I know what coach is going to call."
Receiver Bert Reed called Manuel's injury a blessing in disguise.
"(Ponder) couldn't be fatigued, he had to come practice every day, and he had to concentrate and execute with both rotations," Reed said. "That gave him a lot of reps. He really has a knowledge of the playbook right now. We can go out there, and he calls plays off the top of his head. Somebody might call a play wrong, and he'll correct them. He's matured so much right now. He's matured a lot just from last summer to what I see now.
"The one thing about Ponder, I really feel like now he knows this is his team. He's really stepped up to be a leader, which is something he really wasn't last year, a vocal leader. He's not really a vocal guy, but this year, knowing this is his team, he's stepping up a lot and making sure guys are accountable and doing what they're supposed to do."