While we won’t be naive (and/or like Rick Reilly/Peter King/insert-your-own-cliched-columnist) and claim there’s some sort of pristine or pure honor in playing out your four years that other players just don’t get to experience, we’d still like to point out the senior players that are likely to stand out in 2012. These players have put in the time during their college careers, and now serve as the cornerstones of their respective teams’ potential success this season.
We’ll be going team-by-team to identify the “standout senior” that’s key to his team, and why. Have a different thought on the matter? Feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments.
For a team loaded with senior talent, it may appear as if Florida State has no clear-cut choice here. But with a defense collectively billed as one of the nation’s best, the ‘Noles success is going to come down to the offense. And of all the team’s playmakers on that side of the ball, who better to handle that pressure than quarterback E.J. Manuel?
In his first (nearly) full season as the Seminoles starting quarterback, Manuel made great strides, passing for 18 scores, while throwing just eight interceptions, and totaling 2,666 yards. He also added another four scores on the ground, and was one of the league’s more accurate passers, clocking in at 65 percent on the season. For his senior encore though, those numbers just won’t be enough for a team looking to contend for at least an ACC title in 2012, if not more. FSU’s running game will once again leave something to be desired this season, and that means a lot more throwing the ball. Expect a big jump from last year’s 311 attempts, and the days of him logging 25 throws or less (there were five such games last season) are long gone.
So what’s the bar for success? Given the early top-10 ranking, Manuel will be called upon to not just feast on poor opponents, but deliver against elite competition (a problem for the entire team last year). As inflated as these numbers may appear, the increases are imperative for FSU to keep up with the rest of the ACC pack. In a 10-2 season (the minimum for success in ’12), Manuel will have to contribute 30 combined touchdowns, throw for over 3,000 yards and complete at least 67 percent of his passes. With a young, inconsistent offensive line that may seem like a lot to handle. But if he’s the player he’s been billed to be, Manuel will rise to the challenge in his senior season and lead the ‘Noles back to the Bowl Championship Series.
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