During his final season at Florida last year, Elam intercepted Manuel in a win over Florida State; as a sophomore, Elam had lost to him. They trained together in Boca Raton, Fla., preparing for an NFL draft in which both were selected in the first round.
Now, the two rookie starters and friendly rivals are preparing to clash again Sunday.
"He's not the same EJ from college; he improved his game,” Elam said. “He’s making better decisions, faster decisions than he did in college. He's got more knowledge.
"He’s a very mature guy, typical quarterback -- great guy, never a trash talker. We're pretty cool. I did pick him off last year."
Manuel has completed 59.3 percent of his throws for 689 yards, four touchdowns and one interception for an 86.4 quarterback rating. He's also rushed for 76 yards on 13 carries.
The dual-threat quarterback was amused during a conference call when informed that Elam had mentioned the interception against him.
“He did pick me off,” Manuel said. “I know Matt’s going to be ready, and I plan on being ready as well. I watched him a ton on film these past couple of weeks. Of course, I’d love to throw a touchdown on him. He knows that. I’ll try to get that done this weekend.
"Matt is a ballhawk. He's a guy that can come up and make a good tackle. He's always been an instinctive guy, very smart at the safety position. You just have to make sure you're throwing an accurate ball and give the receiver an opportunity to catch it and kind of cover himself up."
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