Florida State currently lacks depth at quarterback.
With back-to-back classes without a prep quarterback signee, the Seminoles may be forced to get creative in how they use quarterbacks moving forward. Committing to Blackman is sensible given his upside and his production (with a limited sample size) in FSU’s spread offense, but having backup plans and ways to alleviate pressure for Blackman seem like a must moving forward.
What are FSU’s options on the roster among players who are not quarterbacks? Here’s a look at potential sub-package passers or in case of emergency types who can help the Seminoles…
DB Travis Jay
The incoming freshman is one of the country’s top defensive backs in the 2019 class, and he’s also a proven two-way player. Jay lined up at corner and quarterback for Florida’s Class 1A state champions this past season, passing for 1,335 yards while rushing for 1,096 yards in 14 games.
Willie Taggart said Wednesday that Jay “could be” considered an emergency option at quarterback.
“That kid’s a freak. When I say freak, in a good way. He’s different,” Jay said. “I don’t know if you all watched him play. Probably have. But he’s special. He can play anywhere on the football field for us. You’ll see a lot out of him. Probably see him doing a lot of different things for us.”
Jay is open to lining up anywhere for FSU.
“They said I can be looking to play both ways,” Jay said last week. “[Defensive coordinator] Coach [Harlon] Barnett be trying to keep me on the defensive side, but I say wherever they need me, I can help. Offense, defense, it don’t matter.”
There’s no doubting that Jay is a special athlete, and he’s dynamic with the ball in his hands:
But he also projects as an instant-impact defensive back. And his best attribute as a quarterback was his ability to run the ball. He can get the ball to open receivers downfield, but Jay projects more as a trick-play specialist who can use his athleticism on specifically designed plays to catch defenses off-guard. Getting him the ball more than a few times a game could limit the element of surprise and take him away from the defensive side of the ball.
RB Cam Akers
The Wild Cam could be prevalent in 2019. We saw it some last season, although having the poor offensive line play truly limits what you can do from a formation that gives the ball to a skill player rather than a true QB (not getting push mitigates the numbers edge in the run game).
Getting even marginally better up front could do wonders for this run-based formation in which Akers — a former star at QB in Mississippi — lines up as the quarterback.
Akers can throw the ball. John Perry, who coached against Akers in a state title game in 2016, recalls Akers picking his defense apart.
“They had Cam Akers and we didn’t. Bottom line,” Perry said. “He could do it all. He could pull it down and run any time he wanted to. But what he didn’t get enough credit for in high school was his ability to throw the football. They beat us that night because on third-and-long he’d throw a 10-15 yard deep out that [high school] kids can’t throw. We were sitting there in quarters coverage and we couldn’t get our linebacker deep enough to cover it, and our corners and safeties were dropping. That night, without that play, we have a pretty good chance of winning that ball game.
FSU had Akers practice some at quarterback last season, and he’s shown that he can throw the ball downfield on trick plays at the college level.
Can he be effective with more reps as a rotational quarterback?
–WR D.J. Matthews: He threw for 733 yards and rush for another 460 yards for a Trinity Christian team that won a state title in 2017.
–DB Stanford Samuels III: The starting corner was a really nice quarterback for a Flanagan team that was among the best in the state (check out 5:00 mark and beyond).
–S Brendan Gant: The true freshman was a southpaw signal caller in high school. He actually did a nice job pushing the ball downfield and is certainly athletic enough to make plays as a runner.
The upside of recruiting good athletes over the span of consecutive classes is that it gives you options when there’s a deficiency somewhere on the roster. Can any of the aforementioned players take snaps at quarterback for an extended duration? If they do, it’s likely that something went off the rails at some point in the season. And in the case of players on the defensive side of the ball who played quarterback in high school, you probably don’t want to move them away from what they do best for an extended period.
Still, FSU has some players available who can maximize trick plays or carve out roles in sub-packages. If FSU has to get creative it quarterback, it has options.