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Prized recruit to start for FSU

Photo by Paul Dehner

Photo by Paul Dehner

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Heralded Florida State recruit Erik James Manuel will get his first start Saturday at Wake Forest.

The redshirt freshman from Virginia Beach, Va. replaces junior quarterback Christian Ponder, who suffered a season-ending dislocated shoulder in Saturday's loss to Clemson. Ponder had thrown for 2,717 yards and 14 touchdowns this season while Emanuel has been in on only a handful of plays and one completion good for four yards.

"You hate to see it because he's (Ponder) had such a good season, probably playing as good as any quarterback in the country," coach Bobby Bowden said Monday.

The Seminoles chances of a 33rd consecutive winning season and extending their consecutive bowl streak to 28 now rest on the shoulders of the untested Manuel.

"You don't know how he'll play," Bowden said Monday. "He could play fantastic or he could struggle."

Florida State (4-5, 2-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) must win two of its next three games to avoid its first losing season since 1976 and that last game is against top-ranked Florida in Gainesville.

The 19-year-old Manuel, who prefers just EJ without the periods, was offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher's prized recruit in his initial recruiting class at Florida State. Fisher is slated to become the Seminoles head coach in January of 2011.

The 6-4, 225-pound Manuel, who was redshirted last year, threw for nearly 7,400 yards and 68 touchdowns in high school.

"He's looking forward to the opportunity," Fisher said. "I think he'll handle it well. He's going to be a great football player in my opinion."

Walk-on freshman Ryan Becker will move up to No. 2 at quarterback, Fisher said.

Ponder will travel with the Seminoles to Wake Forest, largely to encourage his teammate.

"He's got a lot of tools to be successful," Ponder said. "He's intelligent, has got a great arm and is obviously very athletic."

Over the years, backup Florida State quarterbacks have enjoyed success when replacing an injured starter.

Peter Tom Willis threw five touchdown passes in place of Chip Ferguson to lead the Seminoles to a 59-0 win at South Carolina in 1988 and Danny Kanell matched that performance in place of Charlie Ward during a Florida State win at Maryland in 1993.

Manuel would love to join that short list Saturday.