It was the present vs. the future last Friday night, as 2008 five-star quarterback E.J. Manuel and his Bayside team battled 2009 dual-threat QB Kevin Newsome from Western Branch.
While Newsome's team got the better of things with a 23-8 victory, both quarterbacks struggled at times.
Manuel had a decent outing. He threw some nice touch passes, including at least three that were dropped by his receivers. One drop came on a deep pass that would have given Bayside possession inside the 10-yard line. However, he did make some bad decisions as well, missing a couple of open receivers. His accuracy was sporadic, and he took a sack on a fourth and long which resulted in Western Branch getting the ball in Bayside territory.
Manuel finished 12 of 25 for 134 yards passing and one touchdown. A big problem for Manuel - aside from the drops - was that he faced constant pressure. The Bruins defense blitzed Manuel all night and sacked him nine times. Manuel, a Florida State commitment, tried to make some things happen with his legs, but he didn't get much help from his offensive line.
Manuel still flashed his strong arm. He stands tall in the pocket - when he's not running for his life - and his delivery is excellent. He can move a bit, but he's not a dual-threat quarterback - as many have tried to label him. He's more comfortable getting into his drops, making his reads and delivering the ball from the pocket. He can throw on the run, but his accuracy diminishes when that occurs.
Newsome didn't fare much better in the game. He ran for 40 yards and two touchdowns and was just 3-for-11 passing for 44 yards. Western Branch didn't need Newsome as much as Bayside depended on Manuel, mainly because the Bruins have a strong rushing offense.
The passes Newsome threw were solid, but his receivers also dropped a few. When he ran the ball, Newsome showed some elusiveness. At times it appeared he needed to tuck and run instead of trying to find the open man in the passing game. He showed perhaps too much patience in the pocket.
Newsome has excellent size (6-3, 215) and moves very well. His upside is excellent. Virginia Tech is currently the team to beat for his services, but it's still very early.
Fellow 2009 recruit William Marable from Bayside had a solid day. Marable helped contain the Western Branch passing attack. He mixed it up on a handful of plays, and had one particularly good hit on one of the Bruins' receivers. Marable looks like he'll be a good one next year.
Javanti Sparrow, a class of 2009 athlete on the Western Branch team, played well at receiver. He also showed some athletic ability at cornerback, although he takes too many risks. Sparrow didn't get a lot of opportunities in the passing game, but he blocked well on running plays. At defensive back, he got beat a few times but showed solid tackling ability.
Finally, one player to still monitor this season is Western Branch running back Hykeem Brodie. He showed a nice combination of shiftiness and power while gaining 83 yards on 15 carries. On just about every run, it took multiple Marlin defenders to pull down Brodie.