You rarely hear the phrase "perfect prospect" on the recruiting trail, but I've heard college coaches utter those words more than a few times this year about Virginia Beach (Va.) Bayside quarterback E.J. Manuel.
Keep in mind, when we say "perfect," we mean he has the combination of size, skill, character, leadership ability and academics to succeed at the next level.
At 6-foot-6 and 203 pounds, Manuel is tall and lean. He has broad shoulders and should easily be able to add more good weight. He stands tall in the pocket and is surprisingly strong for someone who could still be labeled as skinny. He could top out at around 235 or 240 pounds without getting soft.
Manuel has excellent footwork, fluid drops and he steps into his throws. He has a quick, over-the-top delivery with a smooth follow-through. The ball comes out of his hand around ear level, and batted balls will likely never be an issue.
His physical skills and playing ability are unquestioned. Manuel has a strong arm and delivers the ball with accuracy, never falling below a 56 percent completion rate in a high school season. He doesn't panic under pressure. He has quick enough feet to escape the rush, and he has sneaky speed. He throws well on the run, sees the field well and has the athletic ability to create something from nothing. Manuel is a competitor and leader on the field, the kind of player who commands respect
This all sounds great, right? But it's only part of the reason that Manuel is the "perfect prospect" to the 40-plus college programs that have offered him a full scholarship. It's his off-the-field demeanor that completes the package. There have been other quarterbacks rated higher than Manuel, currently the No. 18 prospect in the country according to Rivals.com, but few surpass his combination of ability and character.
Manuel began the process with a few offers from some middling programs. But once his highlight film got out, the offers began to pour in rapidly. I've seen many recruits turn from humble to haughty overnight based on attention, but Manuel hasn't and won't change. College coaches, as jaded as they come, continue to rave about his rare character.
The school that lands Manuel will be getting a potential franchise player, a pure leader and someone coaches won't have to worry about off the field. Alabama, Boston College, Florida State, LSU, Maryland, Miami, North Carolina, Oregon, Penn State, Rutgers and Tennessee are his finalists.
In this day and age, maybe Manuel is perfect after all.
Three at the top: The Rivals.com five-star rankings came out last week with 27 elite football prospects earning the highest honor in football rankings. The top three players in the nation -- Foley, Ala., wideout Julio Jones (No. 3), Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure running back Darrell Scott (No. 2) and Jeanette, Pa., quarterback Terrelle Pryor (No. 1) -- are uncommitted. While each player has a long list of schools under consideration, the teams to beat seem to be Alabama for Jones, Colorado and Florida State for Scott and Ohio State and Penn State for Pryor.
Lucky No. 13: Notre Dame added commitment No. 13 this past week when Louisville (Ken.) Pleasure Ridge Park defensive tackle Brandon Newman made his pledge. Newman is a 6-1, 300-pounder and is a good fit for Notre Dame's new 3-4 defense as a run stuffer. He's also the fourth commitment that new defensive coordinator Corwin Brown has recruited. Brown was brought in to help boost recruiting, and has made an immediate impact.