Although the redshirt freshman has only started six games in his Florida State football career, quarterback Deondre Francois has not only improved in his ability as a quarterback; he has developed as a leader as well.
When junior OL Rod Johnson was asked about the young quarterback’s progression throughout the season, he responded: “He's always on the sideline telling us we need more energy, we need to have more energy on the field. Do our jobs, things like that.”
This was the common theme among Francois’ fellow offensive players, all of whom noted that Francois has become more vocal since stepping onto the field as a starter for the first time in early September.
“He’s grown. I see a lot of progress,” receiver Kermit Whitfield said about the young quarterback, “He’s become more vocal . . . If he’s doing good, we’re all going to pick it up.”
The Orlando, Florida native has led Florida State to a 4-2 record, including victories over ranked Miami and Ole Miss teams away from home. Through those six games, Francois is averaging 259.9 passing yards per game and has 11 total touchdowns. He’s also developed a new weapon in the passing game that was not utilized fully by his two predecessors, quarterbacks Jameis Winston or Everett Golson — Dalvin Cook’s proficiency as a pass catcher out of the backfield.
Cook has already eclipsed his previous season high in receiving yards with 345 and should surpass his record of 24 receptions easily as well, needing just five more catches in the final six regular-season games.
“He’s improving game by game,” the star running back said of his QB. “The more he gets comfortable, the more he can be more vocal, the more he can express himself and do more things, the more he can get comfortable in this offense. I see that every week, he comes out with a smile and enjoys what he’s doing.”
Another aspect to Francois’ game not seen from those two predecessors is his threat to break big plays with his legs. In the last three years, Florida State had not seen a quarterback rush for more than 28 yards on a single play. Francois has already done so three times this season, and has scored two rushing touchdowns, something Florida State did not have from its quarterback even once over the entire 2015 campaign. In fact, Francois’ 35-yard rush against USF was the longest by a Florida State QB since Christian Ponder in 2008.
As a quarterback who has shown time and time again that he is willing to stand in the pocket until the last possible second to deliver a pass, he has taken massive hits from defenders on a number of occasions. Each time, however, the 19-year-old gets back up, and with the exception of two drives against Miami (and garbage time at Louisville), he has not missed a snap all season.
When asked about how he felt after the Miami game, Francois showed his commitment to the team saying, “I feel good. I mean, it didn’t matter . . . I’m the quarterback of this team, They needed me, so I went back into the game.”
This has earned him respect from all over the team, showing his toughness and will power to get back in the huddle each time.
When asked about what it means seeing Francois take hits and keep getting back up, Whitfield responded, “It means a lot. He can be tough, he can take hits.” The receiver also said seeing the quarterback take those vicious hits makes the team want to play harder.
Dalvin Cook has a different opinion, on the other hand, on how Francois is able to take the in-game hits: “[Francois] has been gaining my respect since camp, since I’ve seen him in the spring. Just the stuff he can take from [head coach Jimbo Fisher], there’s only so much a person can take, and he took it all and he’s still taking it all every day. Taking a hit from [Fisher] is like taking a hit every day.”
Two notable games left on Florida State’s very difficult 2016 slate remain in match ups against Clemson and Florida-- and don’t sleep on a road contest at NC State. The hope for FSU is that Francois’ development to this point as a player as well as a leader could spell the difference between wins and losses for the Seminoles.