Tag Archives: EJ Manuel

BDN previews Duke Football’s week 7 game with ACC favorite Florida State

Duke will host another top ten opponent in Florida State on October 15

After their week 6 off week, Coach Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils will host yet another top 10 opponent in Wallace Wade Stadium on October 15th, as the Florida State Seminoles travel to Durham. Despite the loss of starting QB Christian Ponder, the Seminoles are the consensus favorite to win the Atlantic Coast Conference  in 2011. In Jimbo Fisher's second season in charge in Tallahassee, FSU returns 18 starters from last year's Chick-fil-a Bowl Championship team that finished with a 10-4 overall record. Expectations are high for this fall, and with a win against top-ranked Oklahoma in September, the Seminoles could vault themselves into the national championship picture.

The Seminoles have always been a tough opponent for the Blue Devils, as Duke is 0-16 all-time against Florida State. This year will be no exception; Duke will certainly have their hands full against an experienced and confident FSU team on October 15th.

For Duke’s week 7 match up against FSU, we are fortunate to have the insight of onebarrelrum from Tomahawk Nation. 

BDN: In his first year as Head Coach in Tallahassee, Jimbo Fisher led the Seminoles to their first 9-win season since 2003. What were the biggest changes seen on the field and within the program?

Expectations are high for Jimbo Fisher's second season as Head Coach at FSU

We'll start with program changes because that is what dictates and influences what happens on the field. Bobby Bowden's approach to the FSU program was that of CEO of a company much like Mack Brown at Texas. He delegated many responsibilities to other coaches. Fisher, however, is much more hands on with every facet of the program. Sure, his assistant coaches have their own responsibilities, but Fisher doesn't watch practice from a tower. He is on the practice field, managing and coaching, utilizing direct interaction with coaches and players.

Beyond Fisher's approach to coaching, there have been vast improvements in numerous areas including weight training, player tutoring, psychology, and nutrition. An army of support staff was brought on board to help boost all of these areas in an effort to improve the quality of play on the field. Under the waning years of Bowden, these areas had not kept up, or come close to matching other elite programs. Fisher has done an admirable job reorganizing and retooling the program so that it can compete with modern day elite teams.

On the field, the largest changes in x's and o's is most noticeable in the transition from Micky Andrew's man heavy scheme to Stoops' balanced defense that utilizes much more zone. FSU fans would like to all but forget the 2009 defense. It was the worst defense fielded by a Bowden coached team. In 2009 FSU was starting a 225 pound walk-on at defensive end. This year, the first and second string DE position will feature 4 players all over 265 pounds. It was also revealed that the defense was not provided playbooks in 2009. To say the least, Stoops had a lot of issues to address when he stepped on campus.

BDN: Florida State is the consensus top pick in the ACC in 2011, and will almost certainly receive a top-10 preseason ranking. With a win against Oklahoma on September 17th, many expect the Seminoles to vault towards the top of the BCS rankings. What does this team need to do to beat the Sooners, and is FSU ready to return to college football’s elite and compete for a National Championship?

Last year, many 'Nole fans did not expect to win in Norman against the Sooners. They also didn't expect FSU to get absolutely destroyed. It was a learning year for the Florida State defense, and the first exam was against OU. They obviously failed miserably as OU scored on its first five possessions. The FSU offense was in shock and could not come close to offering enough points to help as they dealt with their own struggles. This year, the defense has got to get at least a few stops. The offense has to manage the clock and keep OU's offense off the field and out of rhythm. Last year, the OU no huddle decimated FSU's young, learning defense and that can't happen again if they want a chance to win. The plan should be to shorten the game with long drives and converting on 3rd down (easier said than done, I know). If FSU is successful at limiting OU's offensive snaps, it will have a shot at winning in the 4th.

As for the second part, time will tell. If FSU can keep the game at least close with OU, it will have shown major strides since 2009. While competing for a title is extremely difficult for any team, I think FSU has the structure, players, and coaching staff to once again start competing with and beating the nation's elite.

QB E.J. Manuel has already led the Seminoles to two bowl victories

BDN: While most of the ACC will be breaking in a new quarterback in 2011, Florida State and Duke have to feel pretty good about their QB situation. E.J. Manuel filled in admirably for Christian Ponder over the past two seasons, leading the Seminoles to bowl victories over West Virginia and South Carolina. What do you expect to see from Manuel in his first year as a starter? With three explosive backs and top receiver Bert Reed returning, what questions remain for the FSU offense?

You are right about EJ, fans have been very pleased with his effort filling in when Ponder was injured. EJ is an extremely talented QB with smarts to boot. Though this year FSU fans hope he is even better. He had a mechanics problem in his throwing motion which eventually lead to needing shoulder surgery. The surgery and improved mechanics have helped him with velocity and hopefully accuracy. He is excellent in the option game and keeping his eyes downfield when flushed from the pocket. I look for Fisher to utilize him in the running game quite a bit on designed runs this year to make defenses account for all 11 offensive players. EJ has bulked up to over 240 pounds, hopefully preparing his body for the long season. Outside of his talents EJ is a vocal leader on the team. He also has great chemistry with a lot of the receivers having thrown to some of them for years in practice. Hopefully all those reps will pay off this season.

As of right now, going into fall camp, the biggest question mark for the offense is the offensive line. There are returning players with experience but it is a question of how healthy they will be for the season. Both tackles, Zebrie Sanders and Andrew Datko had to go under the knife and miss spring ball. Guard David Spurlock had multiple concussions last year keeping him out of a number of games and also missed spring ball. Fisher says that they are all healed up and should be fine. If they are really 100 percent then there is a lot less to worry about for the FSU offense, but I'd wait until fall practice gets going before I breathe a sigh of relief. At the beginning of last season receivers Willie Haulstead and Rodney Smith struggled. They had route issues, timing issues, and just needed quite a bit of time to get used to the college game. FSU needs them to continue their maturation and be ready to become major contributors. They will be counted on more than ever with the departure of WR Taiwan Easterling (left for pro baseball).

BDN: Mark Stoops did a nice job with a young FSU defense in 2010, though the group was inconsistent at times. With 8 starters returning in 2011, what improvements need to be made defensively for the Seminoles to compete for an ACC and National Championship?

For the defense, the most improvement should come from being in the new system for another year. While 2010 was a year to learn the basics, this year should show the grasp the players have of the different schemes and the understanding of their roles on any given play. Another issue last year was depth along the front. With so many young players, fatigue became an issue by the NC State game. FSU did not force a single punt in the second half of that game. Russell Wilson, time and again, was able to use his legs and arm to convert on 3rd and long. This year, there should be some serious depth along the front, along with another year of strength training, maturity, and familiarity with a new scheme. Same goes for the linebackers and secondary. With the way FSU is recruiting on the defensive side of the ball and Stoops' scheme, I have no doubt that FSU will field an elite defense in the not so distant future. A defense that can be leaned on to win games and perhaps a championship. There is some hope among fans that this defense won't have to wait another year to be special. Of course, we won't have to wait too long to find out.

BDN: Florida State is 16-0 all-time against the Blue Devils, and the series hasn’t been competitive, with the Seminoles winning each game by at least three scores. Having last met in 2007, the two programs will have to get reacquainted in 2011. Duke has made strides under Head Coach David Cutcliffe, but will still be a significant underdog at home on October 15th. What have you heard about Coach Cutcliffe’s Blue Devils and what will they need to do to compete with the Seminoles?

From what I understand Duke has made very good strides under Coach Cutcliffe. After this season it wouldn't be surprising to see a program offer Cutcliffe a pay increase. Duke was a scrappy team last year and proved to be much better than an annual speed bump in a number of ACC games. I look for that same level of play or even better from Duke this year. I can say it's a good thing FSU's defense has been tuned up since the 2007 match up. If these two teams faced off in 2009 I could have easily seen a Virgnia/Duke 2010 type shootout.

I know Duke likes to throw, but if they want to stay in it with the 'Noles this year, they need to shorten the game. They will have to eat up some clock with runs. Duke needs to seize some momentum early and hope for the best. If FSU puts up 2 or 3 quick TD's all hope may be lost as the revamped defense will be looking for pass. It will be the 3rd road game in a row for FSU, perhaps impacting how much time FSU spends on studying Duke's offense and defense. Best thing to do would be break tendencies and do the unexpected. For heavens sake, don't kick field goals on 4th and 3 inside the 25 or even 30 yard line. Duke will have to maximize every chance it has at TDs, as FG's just won’t get it done.

BDN: Thanks so much for your help! We look forward to hosting the Seminoles on October 15th!


Previous game: October 1, Duke at Florida International

Next game: October 22, Wake Forest at Duke


BDN’s Football Friday Prognosticates

So, how are you beating the heat? Well, here’s a suggestion. Find yourself a cold beverage and sit down for some Football Friday here at BDN. If you aren’t a BDN Premium Member yet, you’re really missing out. Go ahead and join now to get the best coverage of Duke, year-round. All the cool kids are doing it.

The Duke secondary suffered a blow this week with the loss of Issac Blakeney for 2011

Issac Blakeney out for 2011

Head Coach David Cutcliffe announced on Thursday that safety Issac Blakeney has been suspended from the university for failure to meet continuing academic eligibility requirements and will miss the 2011 season. “Issac is a valuable member of the Duke Football family and I look forward to him returning to full eligibility in January of 2012,” said Cutcliffe.

Obviously, this is a huge blow to the Blue Devils’ depth at safety. Those who saw Blakeney in the spring game got a glimpse of his potential in the Duke secondary. In order for the new 4-2-5 scheme to be successful, players like August Campbell, Jordon Byas, and maybe even true freshman Chris Tavarez will have to step up alongside seniors Matt Daniels and Lee Butler. BDN wishes Issac the best of luck as he gets himself back on track; we’re pulling for him.

Football Friday summoned the psychic world to assist with 2011 ACC Football predictions

2011 ACC Predictions

In anticipation of the ACC’s Football Kickoff, Football Friday would like to share some of our completely unqualified predictions for the 2011 ACC football season. We figured that by next Friday, you will have heard enough media predictions, but this week, you’ll read every word. Here is the most important prediction we’ll make: none of these predictions will matter by December. In fact, most will be thrown out the window by September 3. In a year where only THREE teams will return their unquestioned starting quarterback from 2010, our second prediction is that the ACC will be pure chaos in 2011. Please keep these first two predictions in mind as we prognosticate.

The road to Charlotte will have to go through the defending ACC Champs in Blacksburg

ACC Coastal Division

The last four ACC Champions have come from the Coastal Division, and for that reason, we start here.

  1. Virginia Tech: the road to Charlotte still has to go through defending ACC Champion Virginia Tech, who lose ACC POY Tyrod Taylor, along with tailbacks Ryan Williams and Darren Evans. Overall, the Hokies return just 11 starters, 6 on offense and 5 on defense (including just one defensive lineman). All accounts suggest that redshirt-sophomore QB Logan Thomas and junior TB David Wilson are poised for breakout seasons for the Hokies. Head Coach Frank Beamer seems to have the annual luxury of reloading his roster, rather than rebuilding it, and the Hokies should put together another top-25 season and hold the top spot in the ACC Coastal Division.
  2. Miami: I’m probably buying the Hurricanes a little early in their first year under Al Golden, but by all accounts, the new Head Coach knows how to recruit and knows how to win. Miami has always had talent, and with better discipline and execution, I think this will be a much improved team over recent editions. Road contests at Maryland, Virginia Tech, UNC, and Florida State will pose a significant challenge, but the Hurricanes have some of the best athletes in the conference.
  3. Georgia Tech: I always underestimate Paul Johnson’s Yellow Jackets, so they’ll probably finish higher ( I didn’t want to break from tradition). There are several unproven new faces on offense and Al Groh’s defense needs to take a big step forward, but mostly, I think GT has one of the more favorable schedules, with their only ACC road contests at NC State, Virginia, Miami, and Duke.
  4. North Carolina: I’m selling the 2011 Tar Heels, and I realize I have them lower than most pundits. There are too many unsettled off-field issues, a first-year starting quarterback, the loss of a bunch of NFL draft picks, and a schedule that includes road games at Georgia Tech, Clemson, NC State, and Virginia Tech. Reading between the lines, it seems that even embattled Head Coach Butch Davis has been attempting to lower expectations, calling this a “transition year” for the program.
  5. Duke: As you can see by my underwhelming review of the Coastal Division teams in front of them, if things go right in Durham, there’s no reason Duke couldn’t end up with their highest finish in several years. Realistically, the young defensive line will have to mature ahead of schedule and the offense will have to prove it can run the ball consistently for Duke to become a serious threat in the division.
  6. Virginia: Many will probably place UVA ahead of Duke, but I’m not sold on the 2011 Wahoos, especially given their quarterback controversy. I interpreted the reports out of Charlottesville to indicate that none of their inexperienced QBs performed well enough to earn the starting job, which is an ominous sign for a team that also loses its leading rusher. Sure, Chase Minnifield and the defense should be solid, but road tests at UNC, Miami, Maryland, and FSU will be a stiff challenge.

    The Seminoles appear ready to challenge for an ACC Championship in 2011

ACC Atlantic Division

Though the Coastal Division has produced the last four ACC Champions, the Atlantic Division Champion should challenge for an Orange Bowl berth in 2011. I’m not sure there will be significant improvement elsewhere in the division, however.

  1. Florida State: Florida State claimed the Atlantic Division title in 2010 in Jimbo Fisher’s first season as Head Coach, and the Seminoles show no sign of slowing down. FSU will return a veteran group in all three phases in 2011 with 18 starters returning overall. Of all the ACC’s new full-time starting QBs, junior EJ Manuel has the most experience, having filled in for the injury-plagued Christian Ponder in each of the last two seasons. The expectation is that the 2011 Seminoles will be the class of the ACC, and should they win on September 17th against Oklahoma, they could vault towards the top of the national computer rankings.
  2. Clemson: With the recruiting classes Head Coach Dabo Swinney is bringing in, they have to be better than 6-7, right? That’s pretty much my basis for placing them here. They do draw FSU at home, but are stuck with facing the two Techs from the Coastal Division, both on the road. I’ve heard good reports about new QB Tajh Boyd and new OC Chad Morris’ offense, but maybe the Clemson folks have just been drinking too much orange Gatorade.
  3. Boston College: I really like the 2011 Eagles team and think they have the potential to make a lot of noise in the ACC, but have one of the toughest schedules. Their defense can be dominant at times and their offense should be improved if Chase Rettig can develop consistency and chemistry with his receivers. Montel Harris and Andre Williams should be one of the top tailback duos in the conference, if not the country. Division games at Clemson and a nationally-televised Thursday night home game against FSU will likely determine whether the Eagles will be serious contenders for the Atlantic division title.
  4. NC State: new QB Mike Glennon better be good, and he better be good from his first snap. With the transfer of Russell Wilson, all eyes will be on Glennon and fans will be quick to turn on Head Coach Tom O’Brien and the Wolfpack if things don’t go swimmingly. The Wolfpack probably have one of the lightest schedules in the ACC and will also probably finish higher than I have them picked as a result, but I don’t know if Glennon can live up to expectations, and I don’t know if he knows who he’s going to throw the ball to.
  5. Maryland: The surprise team of 2010 earned Ralph Friedgen ACC Coach of the Year honors and a pink slip. New Head Coach Randy Edsall will have a veteran team to work with, but even with ACC Freshman of the Year Danny O’Brien back under center, the offense will not be nearly as explosive with the loss of WR Torrey Smith and RB Da’Rell Scott. The Terps will face a tough ACC road schedule and the offense will experience growing pains without its top two weapons from 2010.
  6. Wake Forest: Of all the picks, this one may be the easiest. I don’t see a ton of reason for optimism in Winston-Salem, though the Deacs will return 17 starters from last year’s squad that finished with a 1-7 ACC record (yes, the 1 win was against Duke). We say it every year, but this is a must-win game on the schedule for Duke (and every other ACC team).

ACC Champion: Florida State

ACC Player of the Year: EJ Manuel, Florida State

ACC Coach of the Year:  Al Golden, Miami

Ok, now that all of that conventional stuff is out of the way, let’s look at some fun categories.

Coaches on the Hot Seat

I think there are four, at varying levels.

Butch Davis: how he still has a job is a mystery to most objective observers.

Dabo Swinney: we know he can recruit, but how long does he have to prove he can coach?

Jim Grobe: almost unthinkable just a few years ago, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of optimism in Winston-Salem these days and another finish in the cellar would have to put him on shaky ground.

Tom O’Brien: he must enjoy working without job security in Raleigh. After winning support with an impressive 2010 season, the questionable handling of the Russell Wilson situation has placed the Wolfpack Head Coach back under scrutiny.

ACC Game of the Year

October 8, Miami at Virginia Tech

ACC Bust of the Year

I think this is a neck and neck race with the UNC and NC State quarterbacks. I’m not suggesting they’re not ultimately going to be good players, but there’s a ton of pressure on them in their first season as starters. Bryn Renner at least has a good group of receivers returning, so I’ll say that Glennon will struggle to live up to the unrealistic expectations placed on him by Russell Wilson’s departure.

ACC Surprise of the Year

Maybe I’m a year or two ahead of myself here, but I really think Al Golden is going to put the Miami Hurricanes back on the map. He’ll have to figure out his quarterback situation, but he’s got an All-ACC caliber running back in Lamar Miller and a ton of high-level athletes across the depth chart. I think the rest of the conference has forgotten just how good “The U” can be.

Can the Blue Devils upset the Tar Heels and re-claim the Victory Bell this year?

ACC Upset of the Year

For the sake of the conference, let’s all hope that we don’t see another FCS team upset an ACC opponent as we have in recent years. But within the conference, let’s say that the Blue Devils travel to Chapel Hill on November 26 with a 5-6 record. The Tar Heels have been mired in controversy all season and the public outcry against Head Coach Butch Davis continues to mount. Behind huge performances from seniors Donovan Varner and Cooper Helfet, the Blue Devils emerge with the Victory Bell and secure bowl eligibility for the first time since the 1994 season.

Hey, I figured I’d end on that note to leave you feeling good about the upcoming season. With regards to all these predictions, as they say, that’s why they play the games. BDN will have full coverage from next week’s ACC Football Kickoff in Pinehurst and of course,  we'll follow the Blue Devils all season long. WE ARE DUKE.