With a deep receiving corps that provides him with plenty of targets and a healthy group of running backs on his side, EJ Manuel isn't finding himself on the run as much.
Manuel is quick on his feet and was forced to use that speed constantly last year due to injuries to key offensive playmakers as well protection breakdowns from the offensive line.
"Honestly, we haven't really been practicing [QB runs] a whole lot," Manuel said. "We'll still do some option type things and checks as far as the runs, checking it to the back or checking it to myself running it, but we'll see."
Last season Manuel did not have a game where he rushed less than three times, and that season-low came against Wake Forest, where Manuel nursed a shoulder injury and came into the game in the second quarter.
Only sophomore Devonta Freeman had more rushing attempts than Manuel's 110 in 2011 and the running back beat out Manuel by just 10 carries. At season's end, Manuel's 151 rushing yards left him as the team's fourth leading rusher. Manuel has 517 career rushing yards to his name.
Fisher has not written off having Manuel run the ball and says the team is still practicing those designed plays, but he is hoping to use QB runs less and more strategically.
"We still run all the quarterback runs, the options, doing all that stuff. And we practice it all the time. But we're working on other things, too and we're able to run the football much better in other ways."
Thanks to the return of veteran running back Chris Thompson and a seemingly endless rotation of dangerous receivers, Manuel has more options and teammates to go to on each play.
"I think coach Fisher wants a lot of those other guys to make plays, whether it's just running the ball or throwing the ball to a receiver," Manuel said. "I don't think he's necessarily going to need me to do it as much because we have so many horses now."
Manuel has been effective on the run and his seven rushing touchdowns rank fourth most on the team. Fisher plans on still utilizing Manuel in this way, but with more weapons in his arsenal, his hand won't be forced, which could go a long way to keeping Manuel healthy and the tackles that come his way more infrequent.
"You can pick and choose when you want to use those things, we'll still have those things, though, those are things that will be very important in our offense as we go, but hopefully won't have to use them as much," Fisher said.
Hicks out for the year
Dan Hicks has missed nearly all of fall camp with a knee injury and coach Jimbo Fisher said on Tuesday that the tight end will miss the season.
"Dan's out for the year. He's going to be out for the year, unfortunately," Fisher said.
Hicks underwent microfracture surgery on his knee.
"They went in to do the cartilage and it was an old injury and it was pretty bad and it had been bothering him and they saw it and had to do it right then," Fisher said. "So he'll be out for the year."
Hicks, a redshirt junior, made the switch from defensive end to tight end this year. With Hicks out for the year, the addition of transfer Kevin Haplea from Penn State proves valuable.
Amp McCloud is expected to miss Saturday's game, according to Fisher, who said the defensive tackle needs another week to heal and has not practiced this week. "If we were playing for the national championship, they said they wouldn't feel comfortable with him going in this week," Fisher said.
Garrett Faircloth and Jacob Fahrenkrug have been practicing and Fisher is particularly pleased with how fast Fahrenkrug has recovered so far.
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