One of the top early games on Saturday is an ACC showdown between Florida State and Wake Forest, and it involves some pretty good NFL prospects. Obviously, Florida State will have to move on without Brandon Jenkins and they’ll get a decent test today from the Demon Decons. Still, in two games, the Seminoles have scored 124 points and have allowed only three.
Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel is lighting it up, completing over 77 percent of his passes with four touchdowns. He’s not playing full games, sure, but he’s still got big numbers for as much as he has played. Here is our pre-season report on Manuel, which also includes our 2011 report:
3 E.J. Manuel, Quarterback, RS Senior 6’4″ 245 pounds
Prior to last season, it was expected that E.J. Manuel was going to be one of the best quarterbacks in all of college football. He wasn’t a slouch but he and the ‘Noles didn’t exactly drop any jaws. He threw for 2,666 yards and only 18 touchdowns with eight interceptions, and he had two games last year against Oklahoma and Florida where he didn’t even hit 100 yards passing. That is unacceptable for a guy who is being talked about as a first round prospect, but the talent is certainly there for the FSU signal caller. On the hoof, he has ideal size and overall athletic ability. He has a strong arm and a quick release, and he has shown improvement in his decision making. Sometimes will lock into his primary read and really decrease his overall time in the pocket because he’s not going through enough progressions. The talent and potential are certainly there, but he was a rookie last year and it showed. He has a tremendous ceiling but he needs to emerge as an elite player in 2012 or he is going to be a mid-round pick. He has good footwork and steps into his throws really well. He is slowly but surely adapting to the mental part of football, and when he figures that out, he is going to be really hard to stop.
Manuel enters his first season as the unquestioned number one quarterback on the Florida State roster, and he could be poised for a big season. Has been tweaking and perfecting his mechanics and footwork for the last couple of years, to the point where head coach Jimbo Fisher has indicated he should see significant improvements in accuracy and arm strength, and has decreased his chances of re-injuring his shoulder (which he has had problems with in the past). Perhaps not a candidate to leave early because he is so raw, but he should be the focal point of the FSU offense this year, and could be poised for a huge season. Fans will want to see him make great strides in his touchdown/interception ratio, which last year was 1:1, even though he only threw 93 passes overall. Big, rangy athlete with a strong arm and solid vision down the field. A threat to move the chains any time he touches the ball because of his ability to scramble. To this point, has been more of a thrower than a passer, which has resulted in some poor throws and interceptions. Still, his completion percentage has always been high. When he sets his feet correctly, his accuracy down the field is dead on, and he has a strong enough arm to complete any and every NFL throw. Look for this kid to really break out in 2011 and potentially vault himself into first round discussion with a solid year as a first time starter.
If you want to see more on Florida State’s top NFL Draft prospects for this season, follow this link.
As good of a prospect as E.J. Manuel has the potential to be, the Florida State running game is what has really carried them through their first two games. The ‘Noles are running for more than 225 yards per game, and they have scored 11 touchdowns on the ground compared to five through the air. A top prospect to watch for this game for the distant future is freshman receiver Kelvin Benjamin, a 6’5″ 243 pound beast who has two touchdowns so far this season.
We don’t yet have a full write-up on the Demon Deacons, but they do have some decent looking prospects. Cornerback Chibuikem Okoro, also known as Kenny Okoro, is one of the smartest players in the ACC. Okoro doesn’t have great statistics, but he’s rarely out of place. Last season, he had nine passes broken up to go along with 38 tackles and an interception. This season through two games, he has eight tackles and a tackle for loss. He started for the Demon Deacons in 2009 as a redshirt freshman, and earned Freshman All-American honors. He started both his sophomore and junior seasons as well, tallying two interceptions in 2010. He has good size and speed for a defensive back, and I think if he has a solid finish to his senior season, he should be a mid-round pick with some intriguing measurables.
One of the most intriguing prospects on Wake Forest’s roster is wide receiver Michael Campanaro, who has clearly taken over for Chris Givens as the top receiver on the team. Campanaro has 22 receptions through the team’s first two games, and also leads the team with 260 yards. He only has one touchdown so far this season, but that should change sooner rather than later. He was fourth in the ACC last year in receiving with 833 yards on 73 receptions, averaging only six receptions per game. He is averaging 11 catches per game so far this season, and is on pace to easily break that mark he had last year. It should be exciting to see him match up against Xavier Rhodes on the other side of the ball for Florida State.
Check out CBS Sports’ report on Wake Forest’s top five prospects for this season.