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FSU QB Deondre Francois says he’ll test NFL waters, but could still return to FSU

Upon learning sources had told the Sentinel he would not return to FSU, quarterback Deondre Francois called Wednesday to refute the statements. He said he will listen to NFL officials’ evaluation about his future, but if that is not favorable for him, he will return to the Seminoles for his final year of eligibility.

Francois, who FSU coach WIllie Taggart confirmed graduated earlier this month, would be eligible to play immediately as a graduate transfer at another school. That is not his plan, however.

Francois said during the phone conversation that he would not transfer to another school and he is up in the air as to what his NFL future might hold. If the NFL does offer positive feedback, he will declare for the draft. He he does not like what he hears from NFL people, then he will return to FSU and not seek other options for schools.

“Why would I not go back to FSU?” Francois said. “I’m thinking about declaring [for the NFL] but I don’t know what I’m going to do. I never told anybody nothing like that. I’m just unsure what I’m doing right now.

“I’m still taking with my family trying to decide, but I never said nothing like that.”

He has yet to talk to NFL teams about the possibilities.

“I haven’t heard anything [from NFL people]. I was just focused on my graduation,” Francois said. “I’m still trying to decide what’s the best option for me and my family. I’m just unsure right now.”

Francois lacked reliable protection at FSU during his four seasons in Tallahassee, spending the better part of one on crutches while recovering from a broken knee cap he suffered during last year’s season opener against Alabama.

Francois, who spent his junior and senior years of high school at IMG Academy in Bradenton, had an up-and-down career at FSU that started off in tremendous fashion. He led the Seminoles to a dramatic come-from-behind victory over Ole Miss in the 2016 season opener in his hometown of Orlando at Camping World Stadium.

It looked to be quite an inauspicious start, as FSU trailed Ole Miss 28-6 at halftime, but he rallied the troops, eventually throwing for 479 yards and a pair of touchdowns during a 45-34 victory. Suddenly Francois was dubbed a future Heisman Trophy contender.

The ride, however, would not go that smoothly and the 2018 season saw him sputter. He had difficulty working with a porous offensive line and was hurried into poor decisions all year. The Seminoles won just five games during coach Willie Taggart’s first season and were not bowl eligible for the first time in 36 years.

Some people, when considering the season Francois just went through, will likely laugh at the thought that he could be an NFL quarterback, but some scouts apparently see potential in the 6-foot-2, 216-pound drop-back passer.

Francois has been listed as a dual-threat quarterback since he was young, but that’s not his game. He can run when needed, but he’s not the fastest guy in the world and after the injury against Alabama, he’s definitely lost a step and his ability to cut.

His cannon of an arm, however, is what is expected to win over NFL scouts.

During a signing day press conference Wednesday, Taggart said he supports Francois.

“I know Deondre, he is just graduated, I applaud him for that, for accomplishing one of his dreams,” Taggart said. “And I know he’s weighing his options in regard to that. But we’re going to support Deondre whatever he decides to do. But that’s where we’re at with that.”

During 11 starts this past season, Francois completed 226 of 396 passes for 2,719 yards, 15 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. In his 25-game career at FSU, he completed 57.9 percent of his 829 passes, for a total of 6,279 yards, 36 touchdowns and 21 interceptions.

During his redshirt freshman season in 2016, Francois led the nation’s freshmen with 3,350 yards and 20 touchdowns on 235 of 400 passing. His passing total that year was the fifth highest for a quarterback in FSU history.

Francois ran into trouble off the field while he was sitting out recovering from his knee injury last year. He had an issue with an ex-girlfriend, who called the Tallahassee Police Department accusing the quarterback of domestic abuse and also of smoking and possibly dealing marijuana. No charges were filed in connection with the domestic dispute. After extended surveillance, police searched his apartment and charged him with marijuana possession. He was placed in a diversion program and promised Taggart he would make better decisions moving forward.

Francois also rubbed many the wrong way when he failed to show up for a game late last year as his team fought to keep its bowl streak alive. Francois posted on social media while back home in Orlando during the game. When asked about it, then-FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher said injured players were allowed to miss games at their own discretion.

For all the drama that 2017 brought, Francois forged on in 2018 despite a coaching change and a decimated offensive line that allowed 36 sacks. His lasting impression was the tearful interview given after the season ending loss to Florida that snapped the Seminoles’ bowl streak.

It could be up to backup quarterback James Blackman to help get the Seminoles’ offense on track if Francois jumps to the NFL.

Taggart said Wednesday he is sure Blackman can handle the starting job. Blackman started most of the 2017 season after Francois was injured.

“I have all the confidence in the world in James,” Taggart said. “… Great football player. He’s a good leader, shows that he can play the game of football and I’m confident that he can continue to play football and continue to get better.”

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