OL Sanders: QB prospect Manuel a playmaker


Sure he's biased. He and E.J. Manuel were part of the same recruiting class at Florida State in 2009. They lined up just feet from one another on offense for three years, and they won a lot of games together. So one can understand why Bills offensive lineman Zebrie Sanders has such a high opinion of E.J. Manuel having witnessed his exploits first hand.

Manuel does not have eye-popping statistics like some other quarterbacks in this year's class, though he completed 67 percent of his passes in his college career. Sanders says the value that his former teammate brings is a leadership quality that's difficult to match.

"Just his charisma," Sanders told Buffalobills.com. "He's always positive, never really negative. He always has everybody's back making sure he gives his full effort no matter what it is. Whether it's workouts, off the field in the classroom, on the field preparing for games or in the huddle, he's just a great leader and a great person."

What had draftniks and some NFL scouts down on Manuel at the end of the college season was his performance against Florida. He went 19-36 passing for 193 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions in a 37-26 loss.

On the flip side Manuel had an equally impressive outing against Clemson earlier in the season when he completed better than 77 percent of his passes going 27-35 for 380 yards with two touchdowns and no INTs in a 49-37 victory.

"He's always had that quality of being a playmaker," said Sanders. "I definitely understand that there was a lot of negativity coming out after his senior year, especially after the Florida game. I talked to him and he always stayed positive about it. I know that he's doing his thing with the draft preparation. I'm just glad that people are seeing."

Manuel has created some positive momentum during the pre-draft process earning Offensive MVP honors at the Senior Bowl, a solid workout at the NFL Combine and by most accounts an impressive pro day at Doak Campbell stadium March 19th.

"I've always known what he could really do so he never really thought anything of it. He came in with the mindset that he would show people what he could do at the Senior Bowl and at the Combine," said Sanders. "He did a great job getting to business on that. I've got nothing but respect for him because he did what he said he was going to do."

Manuel had a private workout with the Bills on March 23rd followed by a pre-draft visit April 2nd. Bills GM Buddy Nix makes sure he talks to anyone that has legitimate information to offer on a prospect, and he has spoken to Sanders about Manuel.

"Buddy if he sees me he'll kind of pick my mind and ask me what I think about E.J.," said Sanders. "Nothing serious, but I can tell that E.J. has this interest in the Bills and whatever happens, happens."

All the attention from the Bills, which hasn't differed all that much from some of the other quarterback prospects in the draft, has Manuel and Sanders talking about the possibility of being teammates again.

"I'll talk to him sometimes. He'll talk to me sometimes," said Sanders. "We actually talked last week and the chance of being teammates again, which would be pretty cool. He and I were close in college. He's a good dude."

Buffalo added three Florida State prospects to the roster last year in Sanders, a fifth-round pick and LB Nigel Bradham a fourth-round selection. They also added punter Shawn Powell as an undrafted free agent.

"I feel like we've got a little Florida State pipeline coming north," said Sanders. "We'll see though. You don't know who they're going to draft until they draft him."

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