Injury to Deondre Francois casts doubt over FSU’s season

Logan Stanford/Icon Sportswire

Florida State didn’t just lose the game against Alabama last night, they potentially lost sophomore quarterback Deondre Francois to a serious knee injury.

The Seminoles trailed 24-7 late in the game after a second half collapse across the board on special teams. Alabama blocked a punt, blocked a kick, forced a fumble on a kickoff return, and stopped a kickoff return at the ten-yard line. With just over six minutes remaining, FSU took over on offense. The game looked very much in doubt, but it was hard to discount the `Noles after they made a 22-point comeback against Ole Miss last year in the opener.

Francois found Keith Gavin for a six yard gain on first down. On second down, he tried to go to Auden Tate but the junior receiver was blanketed by the Crimson Tide. Third and six, game on the line, Francois took the snap in the gun and began rolling to his right. As he searched for an open receiver, Alabama safety Ronnie Harrison came on a blitz. Francois didn’t see him, as he came on the side Francois was rolling away from, Harrison made a diving attempt to bring down the quarterback and hit him directly in the back of the legs.

After the play, Francois stayed down, unable to get up despite his teammates trying to give him a hand. He would remain on the ground for the next couple minutes while coaches and trainers tried to determine the extent of his injury. Francois was eventually helped to the sideline but he was unable to put any weight on his injured leg. He was then carted off the field while wearing a pretty bulky brace on his left leg. The quarterback likely underwent extensive testing last night and will undergo more tests today that should help the Seminoles find out just how bad the injury is to their star sophomore quarterback.

True freshman James Blackman took the last few snaps at quarterback for Florida State during the defeat against Alabama. Head coach Jimbo Fisher spoke to the media after the game and said Blackman would most likely be the guy going forward if Francois is unable to return for an extended period of time. The 6’5” 185 lb prospect hails from Belle Glade, FL. He played his high school ball at Glades Central and really started to come into his own as a senior.

Blackman showed off improved throwing mechanics, accuracy, and awareness during his final season in high school. He was a composite three-star recruit but earned four-star rankings from Rivals and 247. Blackman didn’t get to Tallahassee until July, but he’s already supplanted JJ Cosentino and fellow freshman Bailey Hockman on the depth chart. He reportedly torched the first-team defense during the second scrimmage of Fall Camp, which may be the reason for Fisher’s confidence in him.

Cosentino is a redshirt junior, but he’s done nothing when he’s touched the field to instill confidence in Fisher, the coaching staff, or his fellow players. Ever since self-destructing against Houston during the Peach Bowl two years ago, Cosentino has been virtually unplayable. He finished the upset defeat against Houston by going one of four passing for five yards. FSU elected to replace him with a hampered Sean Maguire, who had fractured his ankle earlier in the contest, after Cosentino led two full drives for -15 total yards. Last season he finished 2-9 in reserve duty.

Hockman was a composite four-star quarterback who enrolled early in January. He went through spring practice with the `Noles and has had almost nine months to digest the playbook. However, Hockman was still passed up by Blackman. Expect Hockman to be the number two quarterback, it seems like both freshmen have pushed Cosentino to the bench.

If Francois is unable to return for a few weeks or for the rest of the season, the defense will have to continue playing how it did last night. They held Alabama to under 300 (269) yards of offense for the first time since 2014. The Seminoles also held Jalen Hurts under 100 yards passing and allowed few big plays all night. If FSU would’ve fielded an average special teams unit they would’ve competed much for closely with Alabama. This defense will be even more dominant against the offenses on the rest of their schedule. They are clearly the best defensive unit the `Noles have had since 2013.

For now though, Blackman is the starting quarterback at Florida State. He’ll be the first true freshman signal caller to start under Jimbo Fisher, and this certainly isn’t the situation where you want to break that trend. He is rail thin and looks more like a wide receiver taking snaps at quarterback. You have to wonder how FSU will protect him and if he’ll be durable enough to sustain the kind of punishment Francois routinely took.

He’s also only been on campus for two months and certainly hasn’t mastered the full extent of the playbook. It’s likely that the offensive play calling will have to be limited to allow Blackman to be comfortable within the offense. We also will probably see the `Noles try to establish their ground game more after only managing 40 rushing yards against the Crimson Tide. Cam Akers looked much more explosive and shifty than starter Jacques Patrick, and you have to wonder if Akers will get the majority of snaps there soon.

The Seminoles could soon field a true freshmen starting backfield. A far cry from what we were expecting entering the game just last night.  

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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