Reeling from a crushing defeat at the hands of Alabama, the Florida State football community looks to a true freshman from Belle Glade to save the season.
He’s not a five-star recruit, nor has he thrown a pass at the collegiate level and he certainly doesn’t look like Cam Newton with his helmet on. His name is James Blackman and this Saturday he will become the first true freshman to lineup behind center for the Seminoles in three decades.
FSU quarterback and Heisman hopeful Deondre Francois suffered a torn patellar tendon in the 17-point loss in the first ever game at the Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Up until the injury, the red-shirt sophomore had completed 19 of 33 passes for 210 yards to go with a touchdown and a pair of interceptions.
Once Blackman replaced Francois, Florida State went with a ground attack to close out the game, so all FSU fans saw from him is that he can successfully hand off the ball to Cam Akers, another true freshman.
Blackman is just nine months removed from leading Glades Central High School to the Class 4A Regional Semifinals. Now he will be faced with the best defenses the ACC has to offer in Miami and NC State in just a few short weeks. Luckily, the Seminoles travel back to Tallahassee for the home opener and Blackman’s first career start in what will be a “cupcake” game against Louisiana Monroe, wedged in between Alabama and Miami.
Standing at 6’5”, seeing over the line will not be a problem for Blackman, but his weight draws some concerns. Weighing in at 185 lbs, Blackman weighs 20 pounds less than Francois, despite being five inches taller than the former starter. However, fans should not worry about his ability to stand in the pocket and take shots. Much like Francois, his high school highlight tapes show him staying in the pocket and delivering on time and on target passes just moments before being laid out by opposing linebackers and defensive ends, only to get back on his feet and do it again the next play.
This resiliency will prove valuable as Francois was one of the most pressured quarterbacks in the nation a season ago. Blackman will face much of that same pressure with the offensive line still not fully capable of protecting the quarterback.
His high school highlights show him throwing deep, accurate passes for scores and his senior season, the three-star recruit threw for over 2,000 yards and 14 touchdowns, earning him an All-State selection. It remains to be seen if that deep ball accuracy will transfer to the collegiate level, but with weapons like Auden Tate, Nyquan Murray, Ryan Izzo and Keith Gavin at his disposal, Blackman certainly has the capability to abuse defenses as he did in high school.
While Blackman adjusts to Jimbo Fisher’s offense, look for the Seminoles to work the ground game. Even though Jacques Patrick earned the starting position at running back, Cam Akers led the team with 10 carries for 30 yards. Against any defense that is not Alabama, the Akers/Patrick combination should prove deadly on the ground.
Blackman steps into the shoes of a former Heisman candidate with the pressure of taking the Seminoles to their first ever College Football Playoff weighing on his shoulders. Florida State’s season was turned upside down with one awkward tackle, thrusting a true freshman into the spotlight, but that’s just the thrill of college football.