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2 posts from May 20, 2013

May 20, 2013

EJ Manuel Says FSU Offense Harder to Learn than Buffalo Bills'


Jimbo Fisher is fast developing a reputation as an NFL quarterback guru. Despite the massive bust that was Jamarcus Russell, Fisher's last three starting quarterbacks have all been picked in the first round of the draft, Russell, Christian Ponder and most recently EJ Manuel by the Buffalo Bills.

Manuel recently finished his first organized team activities up in Buffalo and met with the press afterwards. He had some interesting things to say about how he's learning the offense up there.

"I've done great. The learning curve for me is a lot shorter simply because of what I had at Florida State," Manuel told Sirius XM NFL Radio. "[FSU's offense is] more complex and a little bit harder to catch on and learn. This offense is very simple. I've done a great job with it."

Now is that more of an indictment on the Bills or could that actually be an issue at Florida State?

It could be that it's way too early for him to have any concept of just how complicated the Buffalo offense is or isn't. Regardless, I'm sure it can't make the Bills coaching staff feel all that great that their new quarterback, the man they hope will be the face of the franchise, basically just told the world they're being out-schemed by a college coach. 

Manuel did clarify a little bit, "It's a true West Coast-type progression offense. That's really what I wanted when I was coming through the pre-draft process. I wanted something that I could just go in and say 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, check it down and run it. That's it, it's that simple. I love it."

But aside from the fact that- at least according to Manuel- it's easier to be the quarterback of the Buffalo Bills than to run a Jimbo Fisher offense, that doesn't necessarily mean Buffalo's coaches are drawing up plays on construction paper with crayons and magic markers either. Simpler doesn't necessarily mean worse. 

And that's where we pivot to Florida State.

First of all, when I first read that EJ Manuel said, "the funny thing is it's easier to learn [Buffalo's offense] than the offense I had at Florida State," my take was that he would have never made a comment like that at FSU.

Manuel has been noticeably looser in months following the end of his career at FSU. A big reason for that could be that Fisher runs a program a lot like he runs an offense. Much like Nick Saban (whom Fisher coached under at LSU), Fisher controls almost every aspect of the program at Florida State. From the seating arrangements at team meals to the required garnet polo at player interviews, no detail is beyond the notice of Fisher- especially the things players say to the media.

Florida State's offense being harder to learn than an NFL offense shouldn't really even be all that surprising. In fact, I doubt that's the only college offense like that. The question is whether that's actually a good thing.

It is in a lot of ways, it prepares players for the NFL better on both sides of the ball. Offensive players learn a complicated system that requires a lot of them physically and mentally on every play. More than that, they learn how to learn a complicated system, which is something they'll have to do again in the NFL (except maybe in Buffalo). Defensive players also benefit from practicing regularly against an offense that is highly nuanced and complex.

But at the same time, a complicated system is a tool for (most) players on an NFL trajectory. But not every player is on that path. Not every player is capable of that. And certainly not every team that wins a championship consists of just those kinds of NFL-made players.

Even in the NFL, not every player is capable of functioning in a complicated system. Ever seen a player that just couldn't make it work on one team sign somewhere else and absolutely explode? It happens most often with wide receivers and the biggest reason is that they got into a system that either fit them better or- more often- one that was less complicated and just let them go make plays.

In college, unless a guy can transfer the way that typically manifests itself is that a highly-touted recruit comes in and does nothing. There are countless stories of athletic guys with all the measurables that make lots of plays in practice and then can't make it happen on Saturday.

In a lot of those cases the common denominator is that the scheme is just too complicated. 

You can coach them up, scheme yourself to death and try to do everything in your power to win the game on paper. But once the stadium fills up and the ball gets kicked off, it's about who makes plays. And if some of your best athletes can't make it on to the field because they can't get the system, you're going to have some issues.

I'm not saying that's the case at Florida State. 

But comments like Manuel made last weekend lend themselves to the perception that it may be. And for every smart, talented kid that is attracted by that, there's going to be others that are turned off. 

More than a few NFL scouts commented during the draft process that at FSU, for all his talent, EJ Manuel looked constrained at times. That there were moment where it looked like Jimbo Fisher had really gotten inside Manuel's head. 

EJ Manuel is one of the brightest young men you'll ever talk to. He graduated FSU with his masters, he'll succeed off the field if he doesn't succeed on it. But it's possible he never flourished at FSU- at least in the way many people hoped he might when he came to campus a highly-touted recruit out of Virginia Beach five years ago- because FSU's offense is just too complicated.

If Manuel has a lot of success in Buffalo that question could be worth re-examining.

Of course Jameis Winston could also show everyone that the problem was entirely Manuel's by then too.


For all the latest Florida State news and updates follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...

Four Seminoles Earn All-ACC Baseball Honors


The ACC announced their all-conference teams earlier today, just a few days ahead of the conference tournament in Durham, and four Seminoles were honored for their contributions to the Seminoles' 2013 season.

Scott Sitz was Florida State's lone first team all-conference player. The senior RHP was superb for the Seminoles all season going 9-1 in 13 starts with a 1.66 ERA. With the honor Sitz now makes it 20 consecutive seasons that Mike Martin's teams have had at least one player earn first team all-conference honors, dating back to 1994.

Sitz has established himself as a fan favorite at Florida State. On Saturday, during Senior day, fans donned fake mustaches in honor of his trademark Nacho Libre mustache. The Sitzstache, as he's been dubbed, is currently on pace to finish with the lowest ERA of any Seminole starter since 1995 (Scooby Morgan).

Also honored were Luke Weaver, DJ Stewart and Stephen McGee. All three were named second team all-conference. 

Weaver has been a revelation for the Seminoles this season. Originally a mid-week starter, he moved into the weekend rotation when Mike Compton was lost for the year to Tommy John surgery. By mid-year Weaver had pitched well enough to earn the vaunted Friday night spot in the rotation. Brandon Leibrandt had occupied that spot since the beginning of last season but Weaver doesn't seem to have any intentions of giving it back now that it's his.

The sophomore went 6-2 with 2.08 ERA in 14 appearances (12 starts). When he was on, he was lights out, striking out a team-best 91 batters in 78 innings of work while walking just 16 and holding opposing teams to a .218 average against him.

Stewart, a true freshman, has become one of the Seminoles' most reliable bats in just his first year. He hit a team-best .328, belted four homers and drove in 51 runs.

Stephen McGee, the team's veteran leader, is a Johnny Bench award finalist (given annually to the nation's best catcher). McGee batted .299 with eight home runs and 45 RBI's. He also lead the team with a.462 on-base percentage.

But the bigger contribution he made- and one that isn't as obvious in the stats- is his work behind the plate. Despite missing Compton (considered by many to be the team's top starter), McGee helped the Seminole pitching staff to post the lowest team ERA (2.68) in the 34 years Mike Martin has been the head coach.

Notably missing? Marcus Davis. The junior OF/DH has an extremely interesting story, but also had an extremely good case to be made for why he should have been selected too.

Davis hit .312 this season, good for fourth on the team, but he lead the Seminoles in hits (63), runs (53), home runs (9) and RBI's (52). After starting his collegeiate career at LSU, Davis left the program, went to community college and then enrolled at FSU this past Fall. 

He exploded for the Seminole offense this year. Without his bat, the loss of Justin Gonzalez- not to mention losing so much from the year before- could have crippled Florida State's lineup. Instead, Stewart, McGee and Davis were able to form a potent middle of the order. 

McGee and Stewart were both honored for that, Davis deserved to be.

Florida State wrapped up the Atlantic division on Saturday and will play a tune-up game with Coastal division winner (and the number one team in the country) UNC later today before they get to square off with Buck Farmer and Georgia Tech on Wednesday morning for the start of the ACC tournament.

I'll have more baseball coverage coming up all week, keep checking back.


For all the latest Florida State news and updates follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...

(Photo courtesy of Ryan Syrkus)



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