SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Paul Myerberg tells us which players to watch who could soon hear their names called at the NFL Draft.
Florida State coach Willie Taggart confirmed starting quarterback Deondre Francois is “weighing his options” after graduating last weekend.
“Deondre, he just graduated, I applaud him for that, for accomplishing one of his dreams and I know he’s weighing his options whether to leave or not,” Taggart said.
“We’re going to be supportive of Deondre with whatever he decides to do.”
Francois, a redshirt junior this past season, has one year of eligibility remaining. He could either transfer to another FBS school and play immediately or enter the NFL draft.
In a telephone interview Wednesday evening with the Orlando Sentinel, Francois said he could declare for the NFL draft if he receives a positive evaluation from the league. If not, he said he plans to return to Florida State and not seek a transfer to another school.
“I’m still trying to decide what’s the best option for me and my family,” Francois, a native of Orlando, told the newspaper. “I’m just unsure right now.”
Francois has thrown for 6,291 career yards and 36 touchdowns with 21 interceptions in 25 starts over the last three years. However, Francois struggled behind a porous line in Taggart’s option-based offense this past season. He was sacked 29 times and completed less than 50 percent of his passes in the Seminoles’ final four games (1-3) of their 5-7 season.
If Francois leaves, sophomore James Blackman is the only other scholarship quarterback on Florida State’s roster.
Blackman started 12 games in 2017 in place of an injured Francois, passing for 2,230 yards and 19 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. He served primarily as Francois’ backup this past season and is eligible for a redshirt. Blackman passed for 421 yards and four touchdowns in his lone start against North Carolina State.
The Seminoles entered the 2018 season with just two scholarship quarterbacks in Francois and Blackman. Bailey Hockman, a former four-star prospect, transferred prior to season-opener against Virginia Tech after Taggart named Francois the starter. Hockman signed with North Carolina State Wednesday.
“I have all the confidence in the world in James,” Taggart said.
“He’s a good leader, he’s shown he can play the game of football and I’m confident he can continue to play football and continue to get better.”
The Seminoles lost out Wednesday on four-star quarterback and long-time commitment Sam Howell. Howell, of Monroe, North Carolina, signed with North Carolina on the first day of the early-signing period that ends Friday. Howell’s commitment to Florida State began to waver when offensive coordinator Walt Bell was named the new head coach at Massachusetts on Dec. 4.
Taggart has not signed a quarterback in the 2019 or 2018 classes.
“This is what my family and I thought was best,” Howell told Rivals.com Wednesday.
“I learned about (UNC offensive coordinator) coach (Phil) Longo as a person and what he’s going to do offensively when I met with him on Sunday. I really liked him and I’m excited to play for him. I think he’s a really good quarterbacks coach.”
Taggart also has yet to name at new offensive coordinator, though all signs point to Houston’s Kendal Briles joining Florida State’s staff. The Cougars play Army in Saturday’s Armed Forces Bowl.
Taggart said he didn’t think not having an offensive coordinator negatively affected FSU’s recruiting the past two weeks.
“I think we’re close when it comes to our offensive coordinator. I feel good with where we’re at with it,” Taggart said.
“I don’t think (not having one) affected any of our guys. It’s important we get the right fit, (the) right fit for our guys. Now being here a year, I think I do understand better what that fit is. If we get that right piece in, I think it can take off.”
Taggart said the Seminoles will look to sign one or two quarterbacks in February. He also said FSU will sign a transfer quarterback if it is the best option.
“Florida State will be fine,” Taggart said. “We’ll get a quarterback in here that everyone will like.”