Moving on From Manuel
By BJ Bennett
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There is a vacancy at the most important position on the field for the defending ACC and Orange Bowl champions.
Soon after the season ends at a major program like Florida State, reflection on what was quickly transitions to thoughts of what will will be. Though the month of January saw the defending ACC champion Seminoles win their first Orange Bowl in two decades, focus has already turned to the future. Over seven months away from kickoff, pre-season discussions are in full swing.
One of the veterans Florida State must replace is senior quarterback E.J. Manuel. A multi-year starter, Manuel finished his career as one of only two quarterbacks in college football history to win four consecutive bowl games and played a key role in the program's return to national relevancy. With his recent victory over Northern Illinois in South Beach, Manuel led the Seminoles to a dozen wins for just the third time in school history. His 2012 offense compiled the most total yards ever at Florida State. Manuel leaves Tallahassee with a 25-6 record as a starter.
With spring practice on the horizon, no position battle will be more critical or more criticized than the one under center. Here are the candidates to become Manuel's heir-apparent.
Clint Trickett - A rising redshirt junior from Tallahassee, Trickett enters the off-season first in line at quarterback. He played some this past season, though injuries to Manuel forced him into more prominent roles in 2011. To date, he is 66 of 106 passing for 947 yards, seven touchdowns and four interceptions. In one of his two career starts, a 35-30 loss at Clemson, Trickett showed off his arm by completing 63% of his throws for 336 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. The son of FSU assistant Rick Trickett, Clint is a veteran and a football-savvy signal caller, but he needs to improve his presence in the pocket. He has a strong arm, but throws deep passes with a soft touch. One of the concerns about Trickett is his durability. Not very mobile, he stands 6'3'', just 180 pounds and has struggled to add weight due, in part, to the effects of Celiac Disease.
Jacob Coker - The third-string quarterback behind Manuel and Trickett this past season, Coker saw time in four games and completed 3-of-5 passes for 45 yards and threw a touchdown against Savannah State. Physically, Coker is a phenom. He stands 6'6'', 227 pounds and has impressive agility for an athlete his size. Overall, his skills as a passer may be a bit raw as his high school team in Alabama transitioned from the Wing-T to a pro style attack his senior year. During his prep career he excelled on the basketball court as well. Though he still needs some polish, reports are that the rising redshirt sophomore has shown fluid development in practice.
Jameis Winston - The most highly-regarded prep prospect of the quarterbacks on the roster, the Alabama-native was the top-ranked, all-everything signal caller in the class of 2012 and turned down offers from the likes of LSU, Ohio State, Stanford and the Crimson Tide in favor of Florida State. At 6'4'', 206 pounds, Winston is a dynamic athlete with great speed. A premier high school baseball talent, Winston was rated by one outlet as the 22nd-best prep player in his class and is currently on the roster for Mike Martin's perennial power. A redshirt freshman, he has yet to experience the rigors of live game action. Many feel like his overall upside is the highest of the group, though his level of experience is currently the lowest.
There is a vacancy at the most important position on the field for the defending ACC and Orange Bowl champions, a spot where Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke once won national titles and Heisman Trophies and many others became national stars. Three talented quarterbacks will soon compete for the high-profile opening left by Manuel. Though a depth chart might not be set until April, or perhaps even August, the debate begins now.