EJ Manuel: Running quarterback? Maybe not
Frank Alexander has seen as much of Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel in the past week as any player.
The Oklahoma defensive end’s take after watching hours and hours of film in preparation for Saturday’s showdown in Tallahassee?
“He’s an athletic guy,” Alexander said, “but I think he prides himself on pocket passing.”
Wait. Isn’t Manuel supposed to be this great dual-threat quarterback? A completely different player and wholly different challenge than Seminole quarterback Christian Ponder was a year ago?
Alexander admits that Manuel is different than Ponder.
“He’s more stable back there,” Alexander said of Manuel. “He doesn’t get rattled as fast. If he sees a blitz, he’ll step up in the pocket and still try to make a throw.
“With Ponder last year, he’d get rattled … he’d take it and run. He’d pull the ball down and run. I think EJ Manuel wants to be a great pocket passer.”
Sooner defensive coordinator Brent Venables backs that up.
“Christian would pull it down a lot more than Manuel,” he said. “They have design QB runs. They have the option and everything else.”
But just taking off?
“He doesn’t get antsy like Ponder would get antsy,” Venables said.
Those assessments of Manuel may fly in the face of just about everything you’ve been lead to believe about the Seminole quarterback, but the numbers back them up. In Florida State’s first two games, Manuel has completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 581 yards and six touchdowns.
His rushing numbers?
He’s only carried the ball 10 times for 30 yards.
Not exactly Michael Vick stuff.
“From the film I’ve watched on him, whenever he had the opportunity to run, he didn’t run,” Alexander said of Manuel. “He’d scramble a little bit and look for an open man to throw the ball.
“I feel like he can run all day. He’s a big guy, a real athletic guy. I feel like he can get out there and run. But I think he wants to let the world know that he can be a passer, too.”
Against offenses that have a true dual-threat quarterback, OU has had its struggles over the years. Just look at last year’s games. Against option-running quarterbacks from Utah State and Air Force, OU had two of its closest calls of the season, winning those games by a combined 10 points. Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez also gave OU fits in the Big 12 championship game, when the Sooners squeaked by the Huskers by only three points.
Now, I’m not saying that the fact that Manuel is more pocket passer than dual-threat guy means the Sooners are going to roll to an easy victory in Tallahassee. But Manuel being more of a passer gives the OU defense an advantage.
Sure, Manuel may burn the Sooners on a run or two, but every quarterback does that from time to time.
OU is preparing for him much like it’s prepare for Brandon Weeden at Oklahoma State or Ryan Tannehill at Texas A&M.
“With not having a threat of him running, you can be a lot heavier on your rushes,” Alexander said. “When you have a running quarterback, you’re always taught as a defensive lineman not to run behind the quarterback. With him staying in the pocket, that’ll make our rushes a lot more efficient.
“I feel like we don’t have the big threat of him running.”
I’ll say it again — advantage, Sooners.