Fall Camp 2017: The backup quarterback competition

Florida State returns their starting quarterback in Deondre Francois for the first time since Jameis Winston was the returning starter in 2014. That season, the `Noles clawed their way to a 13-0 record before losing to Oregon in the first ever College Football Playoff game.

Francois put up good numbers during his redshirt freshman season. He finished his first year as a starter by completing 235-400 (58.8%) of his passes with 20 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Francois certainly had his moments. He rallied FSU from a 28-6 deficit in the opening game against Ole Miss and led the team on their game winning drive against Michigan in the Orange Bowl. The rising redshirt sophomore is the face of Florida State’s offense after the departure of Dalvin Cook to the NFL.

However, the Seminoles depth at the position behind Francois is murky. They currently have redshirt junior JJ Cosentino, freshman Bailey Hockman, and freshman James Blackman as the other quarterbacks on scholarship. The `Noles are unproven behind Francois and an injury to the starter could plague the team. It is vital for Cosentino, Hockman, or Blackman to step up and prove themselves as valuable backups. Hockman and Blackman both have a chance to develop into much more during their careers.

Jimbo Fisher has signed 11 quarterbacks (Clint Trickett, Jacob Coker, Jameis Winston, Sean Maguire, John Franklin, Cosentino, Francois, De’Andre Johnson, Malik Henry, Hockman, and Blackman) since he took over as the head coach of Florida State in 2010.  Out of those 11 guys, 8 have redshirted. Johnson was dismissed from FSU before his freshman season, but he was redshirt candidate as well. Hockman and Blackman will likely redshirt if they can’t overtake Cosentino for the backup job. Normally, Fisher likes to redshirt his young quarterbacks to give them a year to learn the system but with such little depth behind Francois, could their development be rushed this season?

It’s simply not possible to count on Cosentino anymore. The redshirt junior has only thrown 19 total passes as he heads into his fourth season at FSU. He’s been virtually unplayable since being thrown into the 2015 Peach Bowl against Houston after Sean Maguire went down with an injury. Cosentino would go only 1-4 for five yards and would be sacked twice. The Seminoles accounted for -15 yards in the two drives that Cosentino manned before having to let Maguire take back over with a severely injured ankle.

Is it time for the new blood? Hockman was rated as composite four-star quarterback and the lefty got a chance to enroll early. He went through spring practice with the team and showed off nice awareness during the exhibition. Hockman showed off his elusiveness by not being sacked once during the game. For comparison, Francois was ‘sacked’ five times and Cosentino was ‘sacked’ seven times. Still, he finished the game just 3-11 passing for 31 yards. However, all of the quarterbacks were throwing to a mock group of receivers that were mostly walk ons. Hockman has now had a summer of work with the receivers and the playbook. It’s extremely possible that he could beat out Cosentino with a solid camp.

There’s also Blackman, who was rated a composite three-star by the 247 Rankings. He probably needs a year in the weight room to fill out his 6’5” 185 lb. frame. Blackman didn’t get the luxury of enrolling early like Hockman and is just now beginning to adjust to college. Hockman has already got a chance to practice and play in an exhibition game with the `Noles, while Blackman is still getting his feet wet on campus. Blackman does show off a ton of potential on film. He has a strong arm and is capable of hitting receivers with a beautiful deep ball. He’s a decent scrambler who rolls well from the pocket to find receivers. Expect Blackman to be ready to compete for the backup quarterback job as a sophomore after a year in Florida State’s system

Projected Backup quarterback: J.J. Cosentino

Fisher has redshirted essentially every freshman quarterback that has played under him at FSU. As long as Francois stays healthy, that should be the case again. The `Noles won’t need much out of their backup quarterbacks with such a capable starter. Cosentino may not be the most talented player for the job, but Fisher would rather save a year of development for his first-year QBs. Cosentino would have to be pretty bad in camp to lose his spot as the No. 2 heading into the year. If there’s one freshman that can push him, it’d be the lefty in Hockman. He’s a coach’s son who has a few months practicing the system under his belt. I wouldn’t put it past him.

Dustin Lewis

Lead writer for NoleGameday. Majoring in English Editing, Writing, and Media at Florida State University. Writer for FSView Sports and Hashtag Basketball.

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