The goal for fifth-year senior quarterback EJ Manuel this season is simple-leave a lasting legacy at Florida State.
The 6-foot-5, 240-pound signal caller knows that winning championships is the best way to do that. Winning the ACC-and maybe more--- is undoubtedly Manuel's first priority. But as he and his teammates chase that goal this season, the Virginia Beach, Va. native said he thinks he can do it with better numbers than he posted a season ago.
In 2011, his first full season as a starter, Manuel passed for 2,666 yards, threw 18 touchdowns and eight interceptions, and completed 65 percent of his passes. His numbers were efficient, but not jaw dropping.
This summer he spent extra time in the playbook to ensure that his numbers would get people's attention in 2012.
"I think that's something that will happen for us," he said when asked about posting better numbers this season. "I took a big chunk of my time this summer to learn even more so than what I knew last year. Took my experiences from last year to learn some more in the playbook and get more in depth with my reads and things like that. (So far in camp) I've done a good job with it and just keep chopping away at the wood, just keep working at it, but I think that will come this year definitely."
As he studied Jimbo Fisher's playbook this summer, Manuel didn't do so cooped up in his Tallahassee apartment. Instead he took his playbook with him across the country, to California.
First off was a trip to San Diego, Calif. to work with quarterback guru George Whitfield. Whitfield, a former University of Iowa assistant who has helped prepare the likes of Cam Newton and Andrew Luck for the NFL draft, worked primarily with Manuel on his mechanics.
"Working with George was great," Manuel said. "We kind of just took everything that you want to learn (at FSU) and took it over there and learning with him. Just telling him kind of our play concepts and the footwork stuff, it was good."
While in San Diego, Manuel wasn't Whitfield's only pupil. Manuel had the opportunity to work out alongside six-time Pro Bowl QB Donovan McNabb, as he got in shape for a potential return to the league.
During down time Manuel was able to pick McNabb's brain about being a high-profile signal caller. The biggest lesson that McNabb passed down Manuel said was just to enjoy his final year of college because in the NFL it's all business.
"That was a treat because I had never met him before," Manuel said. "I had just seen him on TV for years, so being able to throw balls with him, and just hang out with him besides the football stuff it was nice. I've kept in contact with him too so it's been great."
Seminoles' offensive coordinator James Coley said you can already see the work from this summer pay off for Manuel in fall camp.
"You see the accuracy," Coley said. "He's been working a while now trying to become more accurate, become more accurate, become more accurate, and it's working. Every quarterback works at it, it's just not just him. Accuracy is everything and I think you're seeing that in this camp with EJ."
Manuel reunited with Whitfield later in the summer as he traveled to Redondo Beach, Calif. as a counselor for the Elite 11 competition.
It was Manuel's second straight summer as a college counselor at the camp, which is a competition that ranks the top 11 high school quarterbacks in the nation. As is tradition, Manuel (a member of the 2007 Elite 11) competed against fellow former Elite 11 QBs Aaron Murray, Geno Smith, and Mike Glennon during one day of the camp.
"It was a great group of quarterbacks who will probably push to go into the NFL this year and if not, next year. It was nice being able to rank yourself up next against those other guys," Manuel said. "I think we were all out there throwing well. I think I did a great job, I haven't seen the final product, the (ESPN) TV show yet, but I know I did a great job and I was proud of myself for representing the school well."
In the end Manuel's hard work over the summer wasn't just to help him improve his NFL draft stock, or personal gain, but it was so that he could return to Tallahassee in the fall ready to secure the legacy many thought he would have when he signed as Fisher's 'signature recruit' in 2007.
"I want to leave a legacy here at Florida State," Manuel said. "Beside any record or any award, or individual award, you want to have that ACC championship or national championship ring, to say 'Hey we did that as a team and helped turn this program around and leave it in a good place.' So that's something that we can look back and be proud of."
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