James Blackman smiles and talked with confidence of the offseason.
He’s growing as a leader, taking charge in 7-on-7 workouts. And he’s gaining weight, up now to 195 pounds.
As Florida State opened preseason practice on Friday, Blackman is having fun but also takes a business-like approach as he is in the driver’s seat as the No. 1 quarterback. It’s an open competition, of course, something Blackman acknowledged. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Hearing the word compete, it challenges me,” Blackman said.
Blackman is the likely starter when FSU opens the season against Boise State on Aug. 31 in Jacksonville. But it’s not a slam dunk, either. Blackman is in a competition with graduate transfer Alex Hornibrook, and the Seminoles are also awaiting word on whether Jordan Travis or Wyatt Rector will be approved for a waiver after they transferred in the offseason.
“We’re going to grade these guys every day on what we ask them to do and see if these guys can take information from the meeting room to the field and who can run our offense and do it efficiently and do it to where we’re not being careless with the football,” FSU coach Willie Taggart said. “A guy’s got to take care of the football and run our offense. A guy’s got to go out there and get all 11 guys running on the same page and do it consistently enough at a high level. That’s what we’re looking for.”
Blackman has challenged himself this offseason. He wants to improve on his accuracy, deep passes and limit turnovers. As a veteran quarterback and leader, he helped organize Florida State’s offseason player-only workouts.
“I feel like the player-ran practices went great,” Blackman said. “(Coaches) had it scripted for us and we were just going over the plays.”
Blackman feels he has a strong grasp of what offensive coordinator Kendal Briles wants to run. Even though the redshirt sophomore has had three offensive coordinators and varied schemes in his short career, he says he has an understanding of “what to do and when to do it and how to do it” when it comes to what Briles has implemented.
And by implemented, it’s learning without a playbook. That’s a new wrinkle for FSU in 2019, something Taggart embraced and the players have, too.
“It’s a great thing not having a playbook because you have to go and make sure you write up the plays by yourself,” Blackman said. “And go study by yourself and make your own playbook. Guys are really putting in the work to learn and understand your job.”
Blackman’s weight gains may not be noticeable as it’s tough to see on his 6-foot-5 frame. But Blackman said he played his first game at 162 pounds almost two years ago. Now, he’s up to 195 pounds after he was listed at 181 for the 2018 season.
As much as he focused on being accurate and leading, Blackman knew that he had to add on weight.
“Every year you want to get better and have gains,” Blackman said. “I think that was one of my biggest pet peeves was to gain weight this summer.”
Blackman is also ready to run, something Briles has done with quarterbacks at Baylor, Florida Atlantic and Houston. While Blackman may look like the typical pocket quarterback, he was comfortable on the move as a prep prospect at Glades Central.
Is he more mobile than fans and media think?
“You’ll see,” Blackman said. “Don’t blink.”
Look for more later today on FSU’s offensive line and other observations from the first day of preseason practice. If you enjoy reading stories like this, consider a subscription to the Osceola. Go to theOsceola.com/about to read more about our staff and enjoy a 7-day free trial.