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Taggart on Blackman: ‘If James is healthy, James will start’

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Florida State coach Willie Taggart stopped short of naming a starting quarterback for Saturday’s game against NC State.

James Blackman returned to the practice field on Tuesday and he also walked, albeit slowly, into practice on Thursday.

“If James is healthy, James will start,” Taggart said.

The question then becomes one of Blackman’s knee. A redshirt sophomore, Blackman suffered an MCL sprain and a bone bruise in Saturday’s win over Louisville, a source told the Osceola. He returned to practice on Tuesday, jogging and throwing.

On Thursday, a closed practice to the media, Blackman didn’t have that same spark as he made a slow walk onto the field. Taggart said Blackman “did more yesterday (Wednesday) with our football team.”

If Blackman is unable to go, FSU will turn to Alex Hornibrook. The Wisconsin graduate transfer completed 15 of 20 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns in FSU’s 35-24 win over Louisville.

Taggart said the timing of FSU’s bye week coming up doesn’t impact his decision. One option, if Blackman’s knee isn’t healed and he doesn’t have the mobility necessary to play in Kendal Briles’ offense, is to rest him and go with Hornibrook. That would be a short-term solution and allow the Seminoles’ coaches to make a decision during the bye week about who would start against Clemson on Oct. 12 and beyond.

Jauan Williams (ankle) also is “not back” to practice, Taggart said. Abdul Bello will likely start for FSU against the Wolfpack.

Linebacker Amari Gainer has had “a good week of practice,” Taggart said. Gainer could be in line to make his first college start on Saturday after the Seminoles lost Jaiden Lars-Woodbey for the season due to a leg injury. He has recorded nine tackles in four games this fall. It’s also possible that freshman safety Brendan Gant sees more playing time against the Wolfpack.

Taggart said kickers Ricky Aguayo and Parker Grothaus have had a good competition in practice this week. It’s worth mentioning that Taggart didn’t speak on true freshman Ryan Fitzgerald, perhaps not wanting to burn a redshirt on the kicker. FSU could also opt to use Fitzgerald in a game or up to four, taking advantage of the NCAA’s redshirt rule.

Taggart did not declare a starting kicker for Saturday’s game against NC State (7:30 p.m. on ACC Network).

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