Florida State got the news it feared Sunday, and quarterback Deondre Francois is out for the season after tearing the patella tendon in his left knee. Now the Seminoles will turn their season over to a true freshman at quarterback — James Blackman is slated to replace Francois. That’s not good news.
Blackman was a three-star recruit and the 389th-ranked player in the 247 composite for the 2017 class. He was actually the lower-ranked of the two quarterbacks Florida State brought in — Bailey Hockman of Powder Springs, Ga., was a four-star, ranked 280th. Hockman also enrolled for the spring semester, while Blackman just got on campus this summer.
Despite all that, Blackman worked his way into the backup role with his play during camp, impressing the coaches with his size and arm strength. He’s 6-foot-5 and 185 pounds, so he has a prototypical build for the position. Unfortunately, Blackman is also raw. There was zero chance he’d have seen the field if Francois hadn’t been injured. He’s just not ready.
Given how Florida State’s offense looked in the opener, putting a freshman under center is going to be dangerous. Yes, the Seminoles faced Alabama’s incredible defense, but FSU couldn’t get much going against the Crimson Tide despite outstanding skill position talent. The offensive line was a mess and the Seminoles gained just 40 yards on 27 carries. Simply put, it was a disaster. And that came with a talented, experienced quarterback.
Blackman will need to lean heavily on the team’s running game to have any success. Fellow true freshman Cam Akers looks like a future star and Jacques Patrick should be a nice hammer between the tackles. But, ultimately, things always fall to the quarterback. While Blackman looks to be the starter, redshirt junior J.J. Cosentino will be waiting in the wings. Cosentino was a four-star and the 238th-ranked recruit in the 2014 class, but hasn’t made a mark during his time on campus.
Let’s be real. Any thoughts of Florida State making the College Football Playoff are likely out the window. As things stand, the Seminoles have four more ranked teams on their schedule (Miami, Louisville, at Clemson, at Florida). It was going to be a tough slate to get through even with Francois. Now it looks next to impossible.
The spotlight is now on James Blackman. Here’s hoping the talent around him steps up, or it’s going to be a long season in Tallahassee.