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Florida State’s 2019 quarterback preview

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It’s the James Blackman show, baby!

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: APR 06 Florida State Spring Game Photo by Logan Stanford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Florida State cleared up a major offseason question when it named James Blackman the starter for the Seminoles’ opening game against Boise State.

Not that the decision was ever in doubt, as Blackman has been the odds-on favorite to win the job. A contender arrived in the form of Wisconsin transfer Alex Hornibrook this summer, but the vast majority of media and fans believed this has been Blackman’s job all along.

The hope is that Blackman can solidify a quarterback job that has been in flux ever since Jameis Winston departed in 2014. Deondre Francois was supposed to be the answer at quarterback, but a major knee injury sidelined him in 2017 and off-the-field issues eventually led to his dismissal.

Can Blackman become the answer at quarterback this season? Or will Willie Taggart turn elsewhere as he tries to return the Seminoles to a bowl game?

The Starter

It feels weird to classify Blackman as the “veteran” of the quarterback room seeing as how young he is, but the Florida native is the longest tenured Seminole at the position.

Blackman may be just a redshirt sophomore, but he has played in more games than most quarterbacks see in their entire college career.

He was thrust into action immediately as a freshman in 2017 when Francois went down with an injury. Although he had his ups-and-downs, Blackman finished his true freshman season by throwing for 2,230 yards, 19 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions.

Blackman stuck around even though Francois was named the starter heading into the 2018 season. When Francois had to sit with an injury against NC State, Blackman stepped in once again and threw for 421 yards and four touchdowns in a loss to the Wolfpack.

Because Blackman played in just four games, he was eligible for a redshirt season and retained his three remaining years of playing time.

With Francois dismissed, Blackman enters the 2019 season as the unquestioned starter. He was named a team captain by his teammates and appears to be a player that FSU rallies around.

At 6-foot-5, 195-pounds, Blackman is still growing into his body. He is not a dual-threat quarterback, but is able to pick up chunks of yards using his legs when necessary.

Blackman’s strength revolves around his arm talent. He doesn’t have the biggest arm in the world, but throws a nice deep ball and reads the field well for someone as young as he is.

In Kendal Briles’ new offense, it will be critical to see if Blackman can find the open man. Briles’ offense is notorious for getting receivers open, but it’s on the quarterback to find those guys.

Luckily, the strength of FSU’s offense is its wide receivers. Blackman and Tamorrion Terry showed a great connection in FSU’s loss to NC State last season, while players like D.J. Matthews and Keyshawn Helton should be able to provide threats from the slot.

The Transfer

Florida State received great news when Hornibrook announced he would use his final year of eligibility in Tallahassee.

Hornibrook started for nearly three seasons at Wisconsin, operating as more of a game manager-type rather than as a true difference maker at quarterback. With Jonathan Taylor and Wisconsin’s great offensive line, Hornibrook was tasked with simply “not losing” the game.

For the most part, he did that very well. Through three seasons, Hornibrook racked up 5,438 passing yards and 47 touchdowns. The problem? He also threw 33 interceptions.

Still, it helps out FSU’s quarterback depth immensely to get a player like Hornibrook on the depth chart. This time a few months ago, FSU was looking at Blackman and a walk-on as the 1-2 at quarterback.

Even if he’s not the starter, he’s a proven backup who has played his fair share of college football. Expectations should not be significantly lower should Hornibrook have to step into the game for an injured Blackman (knock on wood).

The Freshmen

Although Florida State has not signed a quarterback recruit in two years, the Seminoles managed to lure in a pair of transfers in Jordan Travis and Wyatt Rector.

Travis arrived with more accolades, having been a three-star recruit out of high school and the younger brother of FSU baseball star Devon Travis. Formerly of Louisville, Travis recently had his eligibility waiver approved by the NCAA.

Meanwhile, Rector arrived in Tallahassee after spending a year at Western Michigan and was a three-star recruit as well.

With Hornibrook established as the backup, both of these freshmen will get time to sit and develop. This is great for them, as neither appears ready to step into major game action right now.

Are either of these freshmen the future of FSU football? Maybe, maybe not. With four-star Jeff Sims already committed for the 2020 class, Travis and Rector will have to put in the work to earn backup jobs after Hornibrook departs.

Conclusion

Florida State is in a much better place at the quarterback position than it was at the beginning of the offseason.

Remember when Francois was still in Tallahassee and Blackman had entered his name into the portal? FSU was facing a true disaster situation.

But now, Blackman is established as the starter and there is decent depth behind him.

Will it hurt the Seminoles that Taggart hasn’t signed a quarterback recruit in two years? Perhaps, but the addition of transfers lessens that burden. Sims is firmly committed to this year’s class and the future of FSU’s quarterback room looks bright.

Now if only they can find offensive linemen to block for the quarterback...