How Will Florida State Replace EJ Manuel at Quarterback?

Melina Vastola – USA TODAY Sports

Florida State has a number of holes to fill on a last year’s great defense, but the biggest hold to fill comes on offense where the Seminoles lose four-year starting quarterback, EJ Manuel to the NFL.

Manuel leaves the program as the most accurate passer with a career completion percentage of 66.8% and ranks third in FSU history with career passing yards (7,736) and third in career completions (600), but most importantly, he was the first quarterback to go 4-0 in bowl games.

Florida State won the Discover Orange Bowl over Northern Illinois this past season after Manuel led the Seminoles to the school’s first ACC title since 2005 and was named the MVP of the Senior Bowl in a season he played with a heavy heart, as his mother battled breast cancer. He is at the NFL Combine this week and could end up being taken in the second round of the draft after testing well, but now the Seminoles are faced with life after Manuel with no proven option.

Clint Trickett has seen limited duty as a reserve to Manuel, and the rising junior will enter spring practice as the starter. But, he will be pushed by Jacob Coker and rising sophomore Jameis Winston, who is the ultimate wildcard in the race. Winston came to Tallahassee as the number-one quarterback recruit in the nation, but also as a top baseball prospect, and is playing left field for the Seminoles baseball team this spring.

Whether he can manage the demands of both sports this spring will be a huge question, but make no mistake, Winston is the most gifted quarterback on the roster, and his former coach at the Elite 11 quarterback camps, Trent Dilfer, said Winston can be the top pick in the 2015 NFL draft if he focused on football.

The dual-threat ability Winston brings to the gridiron will remind some fans of former Seminole and Heisman winner Charlie Ward, who was also a two-sport star in the 90’s, but basketball never kept Ward from the football field. Baseball may be his best sport, and this distraction could prevent him from grasping the playbook, where Trickett and Coker will be immersed in the X’s and O’s.

Trickett may in fact be the starter as spring practice starts, but I wouldn’t be so quick to anoint him the starter for the season opener in 2013. I’m hoping Winston can get on the football field, because he could be one of the game’s best and continue in the path that Manuel leaves behind.

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Patrick is the host of “The Wake-up Call,” on Sportstownchicago.com airing Wednesday mornings from 8-10. View his show’s website here.

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