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What to look for if FSU starts James Blackman

Going back and watching some of Blackman’s better performances of 2017 (see vs. Florida, vs. Southern Miss), I’m reminded of how much growth the young QB had throughout the season. He struggled in the middle part of the year, but looked far more comfortable running the offense and playing within himself by the end of his rookie campaign.

Blackman has a few admirable traits that translate to just about any offense:

The deep ball. He wasn’t always amazing going deep last year (Francois was more effective throwing 20+ yards downfield as a redshirt freshman than Blackman was as a true freshman), but Blackman — when he’s on — has the ability to launch the ball downfield and to put good zip on longer throws.

FSU wants to be aggressive and has some speed outside to utilize (i.e. Tamorrion Terry). It’s been one of the few strengths of this offense under Francois, and Blackman can keep it going at a fairly high level.

 

Running the option. One glaring area where the offense has been lacking all season is within the option concepts that comprise Taggart’s scheme. Francois hasn’t looked sharp in making pre-play or in-play reads, struggling to consistently check to where he has a numbers advantage. Blackman has more experience within an option-based offense and we saw glimpses of his ability to carry out in-play option concepts last season.

He’s not an elite athlete, but Blackman can make the right read on run plays and is mobile enough to do damage when he keeps the ball.

For an offense that has struggled to run (2.46 yards per carry, 129th nationally among 130 teams), even a small threat of a QB keeping the ball could take pressure off running backs. Francois was a more effective runner in 2016, but he hasn’t appeared to be nearly as explosive since returning from a serious knee injury that he suffered last season. It’s reasonable to believe that Blackman — even without elite running skills — has the ability to better run this part of the offense based on glimpses he showed last season within a different scheme.

 

Throwing on the run, moving in the pocket. Blackman’s poise in the pocket stands out as he displayed some natural feel for moving around to sense pressure last season. This wasn’t always consistent, but it was a clear trait that can be built on.

He’s willing to hang in the pocket and deliver throws under duress, but can also climb the pocket to avoid pressure or scramble so he can throw on the run.

His promising collection of skills were on display last season against N.C. State until Auden Tate left the game with a shoulder injury (on this play). The play below exemplifies Blackman’s ability to move around in the pocket, to reset his feet, and his arm talent while throwing under pressure:

(You can view Blackman’s entire 2017 highlight film from the ACC Digital Network here).

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