James Blackman’s energy and charisma bring a warmth to the Florida State football team.
When the quarterback says he’s ready to be the starter again, he means it. Few have taken a winding road like Blackman from a likely No. 3 when he arrived on campus in June 2017 to starter to backup and now starter again.
“It’s a great opportunity, knowing that you have to come out and work hard for everything you want, it’s not going to be given to you,” Blackman said. “And that’s the kind of guy I am. I’m willing to work for anything. It didn’t move me too much, I was willing to come to work, put my best foot forward, and do what I had to too.”
Blackman started 12 games in 2017, constantly under fire and learning quickly as a true freshmen. The performances weren’t pretty, but the results were there. Quarterbacks aren’t measured on wins and losses, but Blackman put the Seminoles in position to win late in the 2017 season as he helped them secure a win at Florida and then a bowl victory over Southern Miss.
And then Blackman was forced to sit after Deondre Francois was named the starter in 2018. Even after filling in for Francois due to injury at NC State – a game in which Blackman threw for 421 yards, four touchdowns and an interception – he was again on the sideline a week later.
Blackman, frequently smiling and turning a life lesson into a positive, said he learned from the ups and downs of 2018.
“Obviously it was a great experience for me because I was able to see football from the sidelines, view it and understand it from a different perspective,” Blackman said. “From a coach’s perspective to see why they was running the plays and why a defense ran a certain coverage. So I was able to gain a lot of experience from the sideline last year.”
Blackman was named the starter on Sunday after edging out Wisconsin graduate transfer Alex Hornibrook and Louisville transfer Jordan Travis in preseason camp. Coach Willie Taggart said that Blackman and Hornibrook were statistically very close, but Taggart and offensive coordinator Kendal Briles have indicated that the offensive cohesion is better with Blackman as the quarterback.
“I think James being here longer was probably more of the deciding factor,” Briles said. “Just because he had a little bit better chemistry with the guys and had run the offense a little bit longer. Both guys, to me, I feel like we got two starting quarterbacks. I think we’re in a great position in the quarterback room. Alex is in great shape mentally and he’s ready to contribute and help in any way that he can.”
What is different this time around for Blackman? He has always appeared to be mature for his age as well as displaying confidence and leadership. But he now has an added year of experience, has taken on the leadership role in his position group since Deondre Francois’ dismissal in February and added weight.
The last part, a constant question or concern when looking at his 6-foot-5 frame, was a focus of Blackman’s this offseason. After playing his first game at FSU at about 163 pounds, Blackman is up 30 pounds since then to his listed weight of 193 going into Saturday’s game against Boise State.
“It helps your velocity on the throws, helps you throw a little further, make them deep throws that you want to make,” Blackman said. “I have a big arm but I feel like it added a couple more yards on the deep ball. And just the appearance. I always have been that guy feeling like I’m unstoppable, but when you put on a little bit of weight, it gives you a little more confidence.”
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