James Blackman was in a quarterback competition for a third straight season. And he will start for Florida State in the 2020 season opener under his fourth head coach.
Coach Mike Norvell announced Tuesday morning that the redshirt junior will be the Seminoles’ starter against Georgia Tech on Sept. 12.
“I think James has had an extraordinary camp, really pleased with the growth and development that I’ve seen from him in all aspects on the field,” Norvell said. “Doing a really good job of taking care of the football. … He’s got all the skills and traits that are necessary to be a very successful quarterback.”
In his FSU career, which includes 23 starts, Blackman has thrown for 5,079 yards, 41 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. The criticisms of Blackman have been his emotions and decision-making, often under duress, as well as a high rate of interceptions. Playing behind a porous offensive line, Blackman has often had little time to make reads but, when he has time, has fared well.
Blackman feels he has done a better job limiting turnovers in the spring and preseason camp. But he also sees an improved mindset in how he responds to plays and keeps a more calm focus on the next play.
“The main thing that coach Norvell hit on every day is just responding,” Blackman said. “I feel like I’ve gotten better with just responding, understanding the situation, knowing that every play is it’s own play. Just taking what happens first play and just move on to the next play. Can’t control what happens last play, you have to be ready for the next one. I just control what I can control and just produce on every play and try to execute at a high level.”
Norvell acknowledged Blackman must keep his emotions in check. He can’t get hung up on the negative plays, whether it’s an incompletion or turnover. Keeping calm and making the most of each play that’s in front of the FSU offense is critical.
“One of the things I’ve emphasized to James is the response to every situation,” Norvell said. “Some things are not going to work out. There’s going to be a bad play that probably shows up in every game. But his response is what’s going to define him. That’s one of the things I’ve been most pleased with. James is an emotional player and I’m an emotional coach, and when we’re out there on the field, that’s what you want. You want guys who are passionate about playing and coaching this game. But when it comes to game day, it has to be controlled.”
Blackman won a four-man quarterback competition, which gradually was trimmed down to two as Chubba Purdy suffered a collarbone injury and Jordan Travis has missed an undisclosed amount of practice. Tate Rodemaker would likely be the No. 2 quarterback when FSU plays the Yellow Jackets.
In Blackman’s career, he has seen ups and downs through four head coaches – Jimbo Fisher, Willie Taggart, Odell Haggins and Mike Norvell. And he has tried to adapt with constant change among his play-callers, a group that includes Fisher, Randy Sanders, Taggart, Walt Bell, Kendal Briles and now the combination of Norvell and Kenny Dillingham.
In evaluating the quarterbacks, Dillingham said he saw a consistency in Blackman.
“At that position, consistency is the mark of a championship and he showed that throughout camp,” Dillingham said. “He showed a work ethic and intensity in every single rep whether that was in an individual drill or a team drill. He showed us that he can do those things. At the same time, it’s leadership ability on the field. His teammates love him, his teammates follow him, he has the respect of his teammates. So I think it was just a combination of a bunch of things that went into that decision.”