EJ Manuel is one of the biggest enigmas in college football, a player that seems to have all of the talent in the world and has shown flashes of true brilliance. Manuel has had an up-and-down senior campaign and now, with the Orange Bowl coming up, this is his last shot as a Seminole to put good things on tape for the scouts.
Manuel is an interesting case, a guy who has 30 starts going into the Orange Bowl but still has plenty of question marks about his performance. What scouts know is that he's a big kid with a strong arm and an athletic body who can move in and out of the pocket and is comfortable on the go.
What you do not see often enough from EJ Manuel is the consistency that helps make a player a franchise-caliber quarterback. Not only does the senior quarterback go up and down from game to game, but he has moments within games where he is wildly inconsistent.
Large-scale inconsistencies such as completion percentages and overall game performances are merely amplifications of more nuanced inconsistent play. Changing release points and dedication to proper mechanics are the micro issues that scouts will be looking at when they watch his tape.
Manuel, who has already accepted a Senior Bowl invitation, will have to use the Orange Bowl as a springboard into his post-Florida State campaign. That means making sure that his mechanics, both throwing and footwork, are crisp when he takes the stage in Sunlife Stadium. It means stepping into this throws, snapping them off to avoid letting the ball sail and following through to improve accuracy.
Outside of the fundamentals of playing quarterback, scouts will also be looking for how he advances through his progressions and the decisions that the senior makes.
In the Seminoles' losses Manuel threw four interceptions against just two touchdown passes. If he performs like that against Louisville, he'll have even more work to do when the Senior Bowl rolls around.
Getting a win for his team is job one where the Orange Bowl is concerned. However, for EJ Manuel, the future NFL quarterback, the Orange Bowl is a start to the Senior Bowl, Combine, Pro Day and overall draft process. A good performance on January 1 is a must for a guy who wants to push his draft stock higher.