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Florida State football position preview: Quarterback

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One experienced starter, one talented x-factor and two freshman projects

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 21 Louisville at Florida State Photo by Logan Stanford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Tomahawk Nation is continuing its 2020 Florida State Seminoles season preview by breaking each position group, from starters to contributors to potential emerging talents. We kick things off with the position that gets all the glory and all the criticism: quarterback.

Since 2011, the lowest amount that a quarterback has thrown for in a season under Mike Norvell as either an offensive coordinator or head coach is 2114 yards (2014, Arizona State).

Average Pass EPA/Play: Memphis and Florida State, Last 31 FBS Opponents | Figure: @SaiemGilani
Average Pass EPA/Play: Memphis and Florida State, Last 31 FBS Opponents

The offense that he, alongside Kenny Dillingham, runs is one catered to stats, playmakers and especially making quarterbacks look good.

From our Whiteboard Wednesday piece breaking down the Norvell offensive system:

The offense does a good job of scheming receivers open, and often gives its quarterback easy reads and throws. The quarterback in Norvell’s offense needs to be able to make quick decisions and get the ball out quickly and decisively with accuracy. The offense designs a lot of easy reads and throws, either off of RPO action or play-action.

The signal caller under center for Norvell will have the chance to put up big numbers — given they bring an ability to function within the offense (and outside the limitations of it) and work around an offensive line that cuts down your processing time even more.

Four quarterbacks (with all respect to Gino English) will enter into the season on Florida State’s depth chart. Each present a different set of unique skills, and each hope that they’ll have the opportunity to make life a nightmare for teams in the ACC.

James Blackman, redshirt junior

It seems like eons ago when James Blackman first took the field against Alabama — a true freshman thrown into the fire given no real shot to orchestrate any mind-numbing heroics.

Since that day in Atlanta, Blackman has been through the ringer during a tumultuous career in Tallahassee — fighting to stay bowl eligible while the coach that brought you in has one foot in the door, riding the bench while watching your team struggle and miss a bowl and then navigating a season in a third brand new offense that saw you lose your second head coach.

While he’s shown flashes (especially during that freshman campaign) of being a good college quarterback, consistent misses on big (and especially deep) throws, the worst last season perhaps coming during FSU’s failed upset bid against Virginia last season.

Along with lingering injuries, a good amount of Blackman’s struggles last season can be chalked up to the system he was in — while he’s capable of quick reads, his throwing motion limited him in an offense geared toward’s unleashing havoc as quickly as possible — though looking just at raw numbers, he still was succesful up similar stats to 2017.

He’s prone to bad stretches, but just as easily can catch fire once he gets in a rhythm. Though he has his own question marks (namely, how will Blackman function without the safety net of Cam Akers?), as far as all the quarterbacks on roster go, Blackman is the biggest known entity, and getting the chance to re-enter a system tailored to his skill set could go a long way in separating himself from the pack.

Jordan Travis, redshirt sophomore

Travis remained much of a mystery last season until finally, the Louisville transfer got his shot — and took instant advantage of it, scoring six the first time he touched the ball. While he proved to be a consistent threat with his feet, he only got a few chances to throw the ball, completing six of 11 attempts.

The chances of Travis holding down the starting spot solo dolo are slimmer than the quarterback mentioned before him, but the chances of him contributing in 2020 are high. Mike Norvell is extremely fond of letting his playmakers get chances to cause some craziness — as Kevin Little explained in his excellent Xs and Noles Wildcat breakdown, Norvell used the Wildcat 24 times in the 2018 American Athletic Championship against UCF.

Tate Rodemaker, freshman

One of the first two quarterbacks that Florida State has signed since James Blackman dotted the i’s on his letter of intent, Rodemaker early enrolled and got to experience a fleeting few days of spring practice.

As a senior, he threw for over 3,000 yards and 40 touchdowns in Georgia’s extremely competitive 6A division, and put up similar big numbers as a junior, though only ranked as a three-star prospect coming out of the 2020 class.

The Valdosta product has some cleaning up to do in footwork and throwing motion, but his high school film shows an ability to react, fit throws in tight windows and hit deep balls.

Chubba Purdy, freshman

One of the biggest question marks heading into spring, the late Louisville flip offers an interesting prospect for Norvell and Dillingham’s offense. While normally not early enrolling would usually be close to a death knell for a freshman quarterback’s chances at getting some significant playing time, the loss of a spring doesn’t put him

Just a look at his high school production makes the mind race: a dual-threat prospect, Purdy put up 1054 yards and 19 rushing touchdowns at 7.1 yards a clip while also tossing for 3369 yards and 33 touchdowns (to just seven interceptions). While Dillingham got the chance to flex his quarterback run playcalling skills at Auburn with Bo Nix, Norvell hasn’t had the chance to utilize a true dual-threat signal caller since his Arizona State days, when he coached Taylor Kelly.

Questions still remain about Purdy’s ability to translate fully to the collegiate level — there should be no expectations that he can slip in right away, excel and yank a starting job before the season even kicks off. That said, his ceiling likely sits the highest of all quarterbacks on Florida State’s roster, and the idea of him starting at least one game in 2020 isn’t out of the realm of possibility.