Fall Camp Preview: Quarterbacks

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For the first time since Christian Ponder won the starting job over Drew Weatherford in 2008, there will be a legitimate quarterback competition in Tallahassee during fall camp.

No, Jacob Coker did not push Jameis Winston for the starting job in 2013 and Everett Golston didn’t come to Florida State as a grad transfer without somewhat of a guarantee that the job would be his in 2015. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s take a dive into what Florida State’s quarterback situation could look like in 2018.

Departures: J.J. Consentino.

Returnees: RS SO Deondre Francois, SO James Blackman, RS FR Bailey Hockman.

Newcomers: None.

2018 outlook: While Bailey Hockman had some impressive moments this spring, all signs point to this being a two-horse race for the starting job in 2018. Both James Blackman and Deondre Francois have skill sets that fit Willie Taggart’s Gulf Coast Offense. Taggart has shown in recent years that he is more than capable of adapting his offense to whoever is at quarterback.

During his final year at USF, Taggart recognized that his starting quarterback Quinton Flowers may not have been a great passer, but was an elite athlete. Taggart ran a run-heavy offense that heavily involved his quarterback. In 2016, Flowers ran the ball an average of 15 times a game forcing defenses to account for an extra runner on every play. Doing so would cause just enough pause in the secondary for Taggart to take several deep shots downfield per game.

Last year at Oregon, Taggart still ran a run-heavy offense but did not ask his quarterback to handle much of the load as Justin Herbert only averaged five carries per game while healthy. Instead, he used his stable of running backs to wear down opposing defenses. Herbert was a much more efficient passer than Flowers and Taggart adjusted his offense to suit his skill set. The junior quarterback would go on to complete 68% of his passes for 15 touchdowns and just five interceptions while playing roughly half of a season.

What does all of this mean for Florida State heading into fall camp? First of all, it shows that Taggart isn’t looking for a quarterback that has any specific set of skills. He will be looking for who he feels is the best overall quarterback and will then tweak the offense to whoever wins the job.

What Francois brings to the table: In Francois’ lone season as Florida State’s starting quarterback, the Orlando native threw for an impressive 3,350 yards for 20 touchdowns to just seven interceptions. The former blue-chip prospect isn’t Quinton Flowers when it comes to running the ball, but he is more than capable of taking off and making big plays with his legs. If Francois is the starter, expect more designed run-pass options to be in the game plan. Below, Francois does a great job of reading the defense, deciding the keep the ball himself and using his legs to make a big play. This is something FSU fans to expect to see a lot of in 2018 if #12 wins the job.

While Francois was somewhat inconsistent as a passer in 2018, at times he did show the ability to make several throws. His decision making will need to improve but playing in a simplified offense with fewer reads should certainly help with that part of his game.

Where Francois earned the most respect of the college football world was with his ability to take brutal shot after brutal shot and keep getting up play after play.

By all accounts, Francois has been working hard to address his off-the-field concerns, none of which have been major but have added up collectively. If he can continue to earn the trust of the coaches and his teammates, he could be the slight front-runner to earn the starting job this fall.

What Blackman brings to the table: Unfortunately for Blackman, he was put in a situation he never should have been in last season. The true freshman was brought in to redshirt and prepare to compete for a starting job in a few years. Instead, when Francois suffered his season-ending knee injury against Alabama, Blackman was thrown into the first.

While taking snaps, Blackman never threw a pass against the Tide. Luckily for him, his first action was set to be against Louisiana-Monroe, a perfect tune-up game before they would play North Carolina State. Unfortunately for Blackman, Hurricane Irma had other plans. While the storm had no impact on Tallahassee, all games in the state of Florida were either postponed or canceled forcing Blackman to make his first career start against the Wolf Pack and a fierce pass rush.

Blackman’s first season was a struggle, finishing with just 2,230 pass yards for 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. While the season certainly didn’t go as planned, Blackman show some bright spots.

The true freshman led what should have been a game-winning touchdown drive against Miami before the defense collapsed in the final seconds of the game. The Belle Glade native led the Seminoles on a nine play, 75-yard touchdown drive capped off by a 20 yard TD pass from Blackman to Auden Tate showing he could be ready for the big moments.

One area where James is naturally talented in is throwing the deep ball, which is something Taggart loves to do. On several occasions in 2017, Blackman showed the ability to put the ball on the money when he had time to find a receiver running downfield.

The Verdict: This race is certainly too close to call heading into fall camp. Both will be given ample opportunities to show why they should be the one to lead Taggart’s Gulf Coast offense in 2018. Whoever gets the nod will need to be ready by game one. The Seminoles will host the Virginia Tech Hokies on Labor Day Night in Doak Campbell Stadium. While the Hokies have lost a ton of personnel on the defensive side of the ball, never assume a Bud Foster defense will be a walk in the park.

READ: Why Deondre Francois MUST Start VS Virginia Tech

READ: Why James Blackman MUST Start VS Virginia Tech

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