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Analyzing FSU quarterback James Blackman’s strengths and weaknesses, with video

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What to look for from No. 1

On Saturday night, Florida State freshman quarterback James Blackman went from relative obscurity to a name on the tip of every Seminole fan’s tongue. A three-star recruit, Blackman was far from the bell cow of FSU’s 2017 recruiting class, but following the season-ending injury to starter Deondre Francois, he’s now the leader of the ’Nole offense. So, what can we expect from him?

Well, he’s yet to throw a collegiate pass, so we don’t have anything to base our evaluations on there. However, we did check out Blackman’s high school film and have compiled the analysis below. Something tells me that first strength is going to be pretty important.

Strengths

  • Poise

The best trait shown by Blackman is his poise in the pocket and while under pressure. He played behind a bad offensive line in high school and was constantly forced to make throws with defenders in his face. Blackman does a great job keeping his eyes downfield and getting the ball to his receivers despite what might be going on around him. It appears that Blackman does have some ability to use his legs, but it is clear that he profiles more as a pocket passer. In the few clean pockets we see in his highlight, Blackman looks comfortable standing in there and going through progressions.

  • Height

Blackman is listed at 6’5. He has no trouble seeing over his offensive line and scanning the defense. This height also helps get the ball delivered over defenders who can try to bat it at the line. This is a clear upgrade over Deondre Francois, who barely scratches the 6’0 mark.

  • Accuracy

Most QB coaches would agree that this is one of the most important traits you look for. In his highlight, we are able to see Blackman throw accurately on a variety of different throws at the deep, intermediate, and short levels. He does a good job leading receivers on crossing routes, throwing not only catchable balls but allowing the receiver to continue his momentum and get yards after the catch.

  • Big arm

Arm strength for a QB can sometimes be over-valued, but it’s hard not to notice Blackman’s when you watch his highlight. Has the ability to put the ball anywhere on the field. On deep balls to the middle of the field, Blackman does a great job pushing the ball out in front of the receiver and allowing him to run under it. There are also a few good examples of Blackman throwing the fade down the sideline, putting the ball where only his receiver can make the play.

  • Anticipation

A huge trait for quarterbacks is the ability to anticipate the break of a receiver and deliver the ball. This is something that former FSU QB Jameis Winston was very good at and helped him eventually get drafted No. 1 overall. We see a few flashes of Blackman getting the ball out as his receiver makes the break, and this will be something to keep an eye on as we get to see more reps in Fisher’s offense.

Questions/Areas to Improve

  • Footwork

One thing you look for when evaluating quarterbacks is if their feet match their eyes. In other words, as a QB makes his progressions with his eyes, his feet should follow. This increases the chances the ball is delivered accurately. From Blackman’s highlight, his eyes move through progressions but his feet aren’t necessarily connected. You can get away with this in high school, but it won’t fly vs. the defenses on FSU’s schedule. I’m sure this is something Jimbo Fisher and QB Coach Randy Sanders have been working on with him since he arrived. It’s not something you fix overnight, but we can monitor this as Blackman continues to get reps.

  • Frame

Blackman is listed at 6’5, 185 pounds, and that weight might be generous. He has not been in a college strength and conditioning program very long and this is a concern as he is thrown into the fire of the 2017 season. It is inevitable that he is going to take some shots; will his light frame be able to absorb the blows?

What to Expect

Overall, this is a quarterback with a ton of potential and clearly one that Jimbo and company are thrilled to have the chance to develop. While some areas of Blackman’s game might be raw, he has a high ceiling with a ton of traits that translate well to the college game. Being thrown into the fire this early might not be ideal, but luckily for Florida State, it has one of the best offensive coaches in football, a solid offensive line, and a ton of skill talent around him to ease the transition and take some of the pressure off.

Fisher weighs in

Here’s what head coach Jimbo Fisher had to say about Blackman and his skill set at Monday’s press conference:

“Athletic, moved, threw the ball extremely well. Really good arm talent. Came to our camp and threw exceptional and learned very well. Was very eager to learn and very natural in how he did things.” Fisher said of what stood out when he offered Blackman.

Since he arrived at campus, the lasting impression has been overwhelmingly positive as well.

“He was going against our 1s in every scrimmage. Produced and made a lot of good plays against a very good defense.

On Blackman’s attitude and poise Fisher said, “Excellent. Very easy. Very strong willed. Very independent, confident. Has a great confidence to him.”