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Blackman named FSU’s starting QB

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The front-runner is now officially in the driver’s seat.

James Blackman has won Florida State’s quarterback competition, beating out Wisconsin graduate transfer Alex Hornibrook and Louisville transfer Jordan Travis. Coach Willie Taggart made the announcement on Sunday night as the Seminoles concluded preseason camp and moved forward in game-week preparations for the season opener against Boise State.

It’s not clear if Hornibrook or Travis will be FSU’s backup. Taggart’s next opportunity to meet with the media is on Monday afternoon.

“It’s been really close,” Taggart said during preseason camp. “I’ve been impressed with all three guys, just the competition going back and forth.”

Blackman has started 13 games, including 12 as a true freshman in 2017. The redshirt sophomore has thrown for 2,740 yards, 24 touchdowns and 12 interceptions at FSU.

In his only 2018 start, Blackman threw four touchdown passes in a road loss to NC State. Blackman became the immediate odds-on early favorite this winter when Taggart dismissed Deondre Francois, who started 11 games last fall.

Blackman is charismatic and a natural leader. He took on more responsibility in the offseason, acting as if he was the No. 1 quarterback all along. And Blackman has added weight, more than 30 pounds since arriving at FSU two summers ago. The 6-foot-5 Blackman now weighs 195 pounds.

Teammates raved about him this spring and August.

“That’s my brother,” said junior receiver D.J. Matthews, who is Blackman’s roommate. “It doesn’t go no further than that. That’s my brother. Ride for him all the time.”

And Blackman made a quick impression on new offensive coordinator Kendal Briles.

“The way he plays the game, it’s a little different from everybody else,” Briles said on FSU’s media day on Aug. 18. “He does have that passion and is a great leader. His arm talent is really good, his accuracy getting better, and he’s a great decision maker.”

Taggart has rebuilt the quarterback room by capitalizing on the NCAA’s transfer portal. Travis, a West Palm Beach native, chose his dream school of FSU after he spent most of the 2018 season at Louisville. And Taggart landed Hornibrook in the summer following his graduation from Wisconsin.

FSU will play the Broncos in Jacksonville on Saturday at 7 p.m. on ESPN. Boise State coach Bryan Harsin announced that he would be starting a true freshman quarterback, Hank Bachmeier.