TALLAHASSEE -- EJ Manuel and Jimbo Fisher are forever linked, for better or worse.
When Fisher arrived in Tallahassee as the new offensive coordinator five years ago Manuel was his first high-profile recruit.
Upon arrival, the hype surrounding Manuel, a five-star quarterback out of Virginia, was enormous.
Fisher arrived at Florida State amid a swell of his own hype. At LSU, Fisher won a national title under Nick Saban and had some of the best collegiate offenses in the country.
He came to the Seminoles as the offensive coordinator in 2007, signed Manuel in 2008, succeeded Bobby Bowden in 2010 and now at the start of 2012, Fisher and his quarterback are at the crossroads between realized potential and disappointment.
Fisher is still as confident as ever
“EJ’s always been a guy that as I say, his hard-wirings always been right,” Fisher said. “You haven’t had to try to get him to think right, he is wired that way himself. He’s selfless, has a great work ethic and all those things.
“But I think sometimes he puts so much pressure on himself because he wanted to live up to what everyone said and how they said it, and I tell him all the time, you’ve just got to go play.”
Manuel had chances to play in his redshirt freshman and sophomore seasons, but wasn’t the starter until 2011.
Despite throwing for 2,666 yards, 18 touchdowns and eight interceptions, Manuel had to overcome through injuries and the disappointment of a 9-4 season that started with top-five hype but was derailed by a three-game losing streak.
Florida State fans are unlikely to stomach another letdown.
“I think [the game’s] slowed down for him,’’ Fisher said. “I think he appreciates it [more].”
Last season, the Seminoles were already Manuel’s team, but he is more prepared in his senior year.
A darkhorse Heisman candidate, Manuel is completely healthy and surrounded by weapons, his game has matured, as has his relationship with his head coach.
That will all be paramount if Florida State hopes to live up to its preseason hype.
“Sometimes when a guy is early in his career you can’t say, ‘OK, this is a big moment here,’ because you don’t want to add that pressure,” Fisher said. “As they get older though you can say, ‘hey’ at certain moments, ‘this is a big moment. … ’ ”
This is a big moment.