In his first career start, James Blackman showed promise and poise.
Florida State failed to leave with a victory, but the true freshman finished the day 22/38 for 278 yards and a touchdown through the air. Completing 57% of his passes might need some work, but overall the body of work that Blackman put on display was impressive.
It didn’t come easy. NC State’s defensive line harassed Blackman throughout the game. Bradley Chubb and company made life difficult for the freshman, but Blackman responded by making some tough throws under pressure. He played bigger than his size indicated and did not seem fazed by the consistent pass rush in his face.
Blackman was helped by his veteran receiving corps, specifically Auden Tate. The junior was dynamite, catching eight of 11 targets before leaving in the third quarter with a shoulder injury. He finished the day with 138 receiving yards, but could have easily had more against a suspect NC State secondary if not for the injury.
So why was Blackman able to find success in his first career start?
Let’s take a look at the passing chart and break it down.
The most noticeable aspect of the passing chart above is the lack of throws in the middle of the field. The middle of the field is often the most difficult place for a quarterback to target because of the amount of bodies located in that area. For a true freshman making his first start, targeting the middle of the field would be a death sentence.
Jimbo Fisher did a fantastic job of scheming up throws towards the sidelines, where the margin of error is not quite as large as the middle of the field. Anything wildly off target targeted towards the sidelines sails harmlessly out of bounds.
We also saw Florida State employ the screen game more in this matchup. Again, these are throws that are easy on the quarterback and help him get into a rhythm. The first successful drive of the game for FSU started with a few screen passes. Nyqwan Murray was great on these screen passes, catching five of six passes thrown his way at or behind the line of scrimmage.
The ’Noles also started to use the running backs more in the passing game. Jonathan Vickers, Cam Akers, Amir Rasul, and Jacques Patrick were all targeted in the passing game to various degrees of success. Obviously, the deep wheel route to Rasul that Blackman under-throws is the one that might have changed the trajectory of the game.
The graphic above confirms what we’ve previous discussed, that Blackman did not target the middle of the field. Only two passes were thrown between the hash marks.
In reality, this passing chart is what you’d expect from a true freshman making his first start. A lot of passes were thrown within 10-yards of the line of scrimmage, 22 if we include passes thrown behind the line of scrimmage as well. Meanwhile, Blackman was fairly inaccurate beyond 10-yards, only completing seven of 16 passes.
Moving forward, Blackman showed a lot of things to be impressed with. First, the arm talent is there without question. He made some throws in this game that were flat out awesome.
His poise was also commendable. In the face of pressure from Chubb and company, Blackman stood in the pocket and made some big plays down the field. But he also scrambled and threw well on the run as well.
With Wake Forest on deck, it will be another opportunity to see how Blackman performs in the face of pressure. The Demon Deacons are not a powerhouse, but have played Florida State well over the past few years. Coupled with the fact that the true freshman will be making his first road start, and it makes for another interesting matchup.