Florida State Football: Is E.J. Manuel Living Up to the Hype?

Joe Drake@JoeDrakeDotComContributor IIIOctober 28, 2011

Florida State Football: Is E.J. Manuel Living Up to the Hype?

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    "As (E.J.) Manuel heads into his senior season, he has a chance to be the best in this class as he possesses great size, a live, big arm and tremendous athleticism. He is a pocket passer and a dual-threat guy all wrapped into one package."

    Quite a glowing review from the ESPN recruiting analysts.

    However, some say E.J. Manuel hasn't lived up to the billing as he's just taking the reins as a junior and has thrown as many interceptions as touchdowns. E.J. also suffered an injury during the Oklahoma game causing critics to say: Here we go again.

    On the contrary my friends, E.J. Manuel isn't Xavier Lee 2.0.

    E.J. is every bit as advertised.

Breaking Down the Underclassman Years

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    Just because Manuel didn't become the starter until the 2011 season does not mean he has underachieved. After all, he was backing up this year's 12th overall draft pick, Christian Ponder. Can't blame him for that.

    E.J. did see action, though, as he appeared in 14 games (six starts) throughout 2009 and 2010. While the numbers aren't eye-popping, there are two stats that stick out here:

    Manuel averaged 8.43 yards per attempt and completed 67 percent of his passes. Through eight weeks this season, that would put him top 20 in the nation in both categories.

    Not bad for an underclassman.

Shining in the Spotlight

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    E.J. Manuel has quarterbacked Florida State's last two bowl wins. He started as a true freshman in the Gator Bowl against West Virginia and garnered MVP honors.

    Let me restate that: Manuel was the MVP of the Gator Bowl, as a true freshman.

    In the Chick-fil-A Bowl, he took over for the injured Ponder during the second quarter. He proceeded to complete 73 percent of his passes while racking up 46 yards on the ground en route to a 26-17 win over South Carolina.

    That includes the game-clinching TD pass with 5:27 to go in the contest.

What We've Seen in 2011

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    Though not all has gone according to plan, we have seen flashes of brilliance in Manuel's first campaign as the starter.

    He has missed some time due to a shoulder injury, but his ratios are very strong; Manuel ranks 10th in yards per attempt, 34th in completion percentage and 21st in QB rating.

    Despite losing, the Oklahoma game was a success for E.J. as he proved he can run on BCS defenses. Manuel gashed the Sooners for 49 yards on eight carries (6.1 yards per carry) including the 28-yard scamper on this slide.

    E.J. Manuel is truly a dual threat.

Manuel Passes the Eye-Test

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    E.J. Manuel's resume reads accordingly thus far:

    Two bowl wins

    Gator Bowl MVP

    Career numbers: 66-percent completion percentage, 8.7 yards per attempt, 144.8 QB rating, 498 yards rushing and six scores

    Take a minute to watch him play and you'll see that E.J. Manuel is living up to the hype—and he's only going to be more effective with each start.

    This time next year, we could be looking at the Heisman favorite as he leads Florida State to the national title game.