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EJ Edging Closer
EJ Manuel's days as a sideline spectator could come to a close Saturday at Wake Forest.


EJ Manuel's days as a sideline spectator could come to a close Saturday at Wake Forest.

Oct. 5, 2011

By Bob Thomas, Seminoles.com

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Jimbo Fisher isn't quite ready to proclaim EJ Manuel as the starter for Saturday's game at Wake Forest, but it's certainly looking that way.

Manuel took part in his third full practice of the week Wednesday as he continues to recover from the left should separation he suffered in the second half of the Oklahoma loss on Sept. 17.

"He came out a little sore today, after having two good days, (but) after two minutes he worked right through it," Fisher said, following Wednesday's workout. "I thought he threw the ball well."

When asked if he was ready to announce Manuel as the starter, Fisher came up a bit short of a proclamation:

"He seems to be ready. We'll have to judge as we go. I don't want to saying anything in particular until we get to that point."

While redshirt Clint Trickett has played well in Manuel's absence, there are elements to the redshirt junior's game that could potentially provide a lift to the Seminoles' offense.

Minimally, Fisher hopes the Seminoles will pick up where they left off when Manuel was in the lineup.

"The thing we were really ready to take off and do was we had some running game going, when he was running," Fisher said. "When you put his element in the game it changes the whole dynamic and it makes everybody around him better. It's just like the first year (2007) when Christian Ponder started. We had all of those freshmen lineman starting. The way we ran the ball helped take pressure off them. People forget Christian was 140 yards (rushing) at Miami. ... and when you do that it changes looks and makes their blocks a lot easier."

By adding another potential running threat in the backfield, opposing defenses are at a greater risk if they attempt to stack the box to stop the run.

Wake Forest uses a wide range of looks from its 3-4 defensive front to confuse opponents and stuff the run. They also lean heavily on the blitz. The Seminoles have spent a great deal of time this week preparing the linemen and the backs to pick up those blitzes.

Adding Manuel and his run-pass threat to the mix could potentially neutralize some of the threat Wake Forest poses.

Hopkins' record chase nearly taken for granted

FSU junior kicker Dustin Hopkins has been virtually automatic on PAT's and field goals. The Houston, Texas native is six PAT's away from matching Derek Schmidt's school-record 108 consecutive point-after conversions. And, with 14 successful field goal attempts in a row, he's one shy of Graham Gano's recent streak of 15, set back in 2009.

Fisher wasn't even aware that Hopkins was closing in on a couple of standards, however, he certainly doesn't under-value Hopkins' contributions.

"I hope he makes them," Fisher cracked. "They cross my mind when they don't go through..

"I didn't even realize that, but he's having a great year."

Fisher said it's easy to take for granted how good Hopkins has been for the `Noles. He hasn't missed a PAT since the second quarter of the Sept. 19, 2009 win at BYU. That spans his final 33 PAT's of 2009, all 53 last season and 16 consecutive this season.

Hopkins has converted all seven of his field goal attempts this season, and his final seven in 2010. His streak dates to Nov. 20, 2010 at Maryland, when he narrowly missed from 51 yards.

"Like teachers say, some of the best kids in your class you never pay attention to because you're worrying about all the kids that have issues," Fisher said. "You take those for granted. ... He just goes out and does his job."

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