The scenario is familiar: A Florida State quarterback finishes a mixed career, debate ensues about his NFL draft prospects, then he arrives at the Senior Bowl and does nothing but boost his stock.
That worked pretty well in 2011 for Christian Ponder, who parlayed an MVP performance in the game into a first-round selection by Minnesota. Soon we’ll see how it turns out for his successor, EJ Manuel.
The former Seminoles quarterback out of Bayside High School takes the first steps this week in trying to convince pro teams he’s the man to run their huddles.
Among the questions about him: Can he read well-disguised NFL coverages? Will he find the consistency that eluded him during his career in Tallahassee?
“It’s about proving what you can do,” Manuel said. “I think a lot of scouts already know what you can do. They know I can throw. They know I can run. My main thing is to come out here and be consistent every day in practice.”
With the draft three months away, there isn’t a consensus on Manuel. Some scouts think he can be an effective starting quarterback. Others have doubts.
Either way, Manuel has some key attributes in his favor. One firm handshake reinforces what is obvious: He is massive, measuring 6-foot-43⁄8 inches and 237 pounds at Monday’s weigh-in. With broad shoulders and large muscles, his physique resembles 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
“I think my size kind of speaks for itself,” Manuel said.
His impressive athleticism won’t hurt, either. He is among the most athletic quarterbacks, even if he didn’t use those skills as a runner much in 2012. Making a greater effort to stay in the pocket, he finished the season with 46 rushes for 186 yards.
But Manuel is not trying to de-emphasize his running ability, not with the success of pro quarterbacks like Kaepernick, Russell Wilson and others. “When I watch those guys play on TV, I’m rooting for them because I feel like I’m in the same mold as them,” Manuel said. “But it’s not that they’re just beating guys with their feet. They’re throwing the ball great, too. ... I just hope I can fall into the same mold.”
It’s important to note Manuel finished his career as FSU’s most accurate passer, completing 67.7 percent of his attempts.
And in a day when many college quarterbacks play exclusively from the shotgun and in spread formations, coach Jimbo Fisher often had Manuel under center and in pro-style formations.
“He’s in a good position because he’s got a good background,” said Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, part of the staff coaching Manuel’s South team.
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