TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida State's offense could count on Deondre Francois making a play whenever they were struggling last season.
With Francois out with a season-ending knee injury, the 10th-ranked Seminoles are turning the offense over to James Blackman. Florida State is confident the freshman can get the job done.Blackman will get some extra time to work with his teammates. The Seminoles game on Saturday against Louisiana-Monroe was canceled Thursday night due to Hurricane Irma, which is expected to impact most of the state this weekend.
The cancellation came after Florida Gov. Rick Scott ordered all state colleges and universities closed through Monday in order to support shelter and emergency relief efforts.
Whenever Blackman will make his first collegiate start remains unknown. The Seminoles are scheduled to face 16th-ranked Miami on Sept. 16, but if the storm causes extensive damage to South Florida or the rest of the state, that could get postponed. Both teams have an open date on Oct. 7.
Blackman played one series during last Saturday's 24-7 loss to No. 1 Alabama after Francois was injured. Blackman did not attempt a pass and handed off three straight plays to run out the clock.Most players had built a rapport and comfort level with Francois over the past 18 months. Blackman doesn't have that luxury with the first-team offense.
"I think he came in with the attitude that he always had to be ready just in case a situation like this happened," left tackle Derrick Kelly said. "There's not much difference between the two quarterbacks. Both are very mobile and dual threat type of guys."
Coach Jimbo Fisher said there won't be a drastic change to the offense with Blackman under center. It was Blackman's ability to grasp the offense quickly that has made him only the second true quarterback to start at quarterback in school history.
Fisher said on Wednesday night during his call-in show that Blackman's progress this week has been "exceptional."
Despite being held to a touchdown against Alabama, the offense did have some areas where it showed improvement that could benefit Blackman.
The offensive line, which struggled in pass protection last season, showed improvement but gave up three sacks against Alabama in the opener, with two coming in the second half after the Seminoles fell behind. Francois was injured while scrambling away from pressure.
The receivers, who don't have much experience, made some athletic plays and demonstrated the ability to get separation on cornerbacks a couple times. But there were also some instances where they ran the wrong routes.
"The offensive line played a heck of a game. We did good but I think we could've done better," receiver Keith Gavin said. "There are still things we need to clean up."
Another big concern is with the run game after Jacques Patrick was held to four yards. Freshman Cam Akers had 30 yards on 10 carries and might have a bigger role on Saturday.
Jimbo Fisher: "James Blackman is the No. 1 QB." pic.twitter.com/TmfzWwiege— FSU Football (@FSUFootball) September 4, 2017
The Seminoles will need a better run game if they are going to take pressure off Blackman and avoid third-and--long situations. Florida State converted just four of 13 third-down opportunities last week.
Teammates say the biggest thing that stands out with Blackman is his poise and that he doesn't seem rattled. But they also know there needs to be more attention to detail.
"If we're running a route this supposed to be five steps, run five steps," wide receiver Auden Tate said.
Fisher has also stressed that the Seminoles' goals of winning the Atlantic Coast Conference and reaching the College Football Playoff remain attainable. He may be right, and a pivotal step in that quest will come whenever FSU faces Miami.
"We're just going to keep rolling," offensive guard Landon Dickerson said. "We can't let one person getting hurt affect where this team wants to go."
This article was written by Joe Reedy from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.