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James Blackman has Talent, Experience for FSU

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Though college football didn't see much of Florida State's James Blackman last season, there is both a lot on his resume and a lot to like.

Though college football didn't see much of Florida State's James Blackman last season, there is both a lot on his resume and a lot to like. Redshirting a year ago, the Belle Glade-native was forced into a sudden starting role as a true freshman in 2017, stepping in under center when Deondre Francois was injured, Blackman, taking some lumps, responded to throw 19 touchdown passes in helping the Seminoles to a bowl win over Southern Miss. Currently, with Wisconsin transfer Alex Hornibrook coming later in the year, the extent of the scholarship depth chart following Francois' dismissal, Blackman's encore showing may prove to be a national showcase as well.

After starting a dozen games two seasons ago, Blackman started just one, as the Florida State coaching staff kept his redshirt intact, this past year. Blackman appeared in contests against Miami, Wake Forest and Clemson and was in the lineup against North Carolina State, where he completed 29-of-46 passes for 421 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. The only other outing where Blackman attempted more than one throw was against the eventual national champion Tigers as he came in late to go 3-of-4 for 88 yards and a score. 

Exactly seven Power Five quarterbacks had a game with at least 420 yards passing and four touchdowns against a P5 defense in 2018: South Carolina's Jake Bentley, Texas Tech's Jett Duffey, West Virginia's Will Grier, Ohio State Dwayne Haskins, Washington State's Gardner Minshew, Oklahoma's Kyler Murray and Blackman. Grier, Murray and Blackman were the only players to do it on fewer than 30 completions.

In Blackman's last two starts, NC State in 2018 and Southern Miss in 2017, he combined to complete 47-of-72 passes for 654 yards, eight touchdowns and one pick. Add in his late production against Clemson and Blackman's totals from his last three meaningful game performances, citing contests with more than one attempt, are 50-of-76 for 742 yards, nine scores and one interception. Every Florida State player who caught a touchdown pass from Blackman this past fall is back.

Reviewing his true freshman debut, Blackman, on a number of occasions, played with a poise beyond his years. With little time to prepare, he threw for 278 yards in a physical showdown with Bradley Chubb-led NC State in his first-ever college start. Blackman led the Seminoles down the field in a tight battle with rival Miami, throwing a late go-ahead touchdown with 1:24 to play. He won at rival Florida in front of a hostile crowd. After helping extending Florida State's bowl streak, Blackman promptly won Offensive MVP honors in the Independence Bowl. 

At 6'5'', Blackman, who there were some transfer portal rumors around back in mid-January, has plenty of talent to go with his experience. He stands tall in the pocket, has a strong arm, good awareness and the mobility to elude pressure and dash downfield. Blackman throws an especially-nice deep ball, a gift with a lot of promise given the return of 6'4'' wide receiver Tamarrion Terry, who caught eight touchdown passes and averaged 21.3 yards per reception as a freshman in 2018. There is plenty that Blackman, who has added strength since his unexpected introduction a few years ago, does well.   

Blackman's freshman season was one where his leadership, for all of his physical traits, was on display. First tested, the young quarterback's resolve was ultimately revealed. Having served in a variety of roles in his career already, Blackman has seen the field at Florida State from multiple perspectives. What he has is a rare ability to be a energetic force and a calming presence alike.     

In new coordinator Kendal Briles' offense, Blackman will look to improve his proficiency, protect the football and possibly emerge as a more-regular runner. Overall consistency will need to be better with increased expectations and responsibility. This spring is proving important for him in terms of cohesion and chemistry. Ahead of an important season-opener with Boise State in Jacksonville, Blackman is set to potentially emerge as the face of Florida State's football team.   

The addition to Hornibrook is important news for Florida State. Unless Louisville-transfer Jordan Travis receives an immediate eligibility waiver, Hornibrook will be the only other scholarship signal caller available for the Seminoles this fall. A three-year starter at Wisconsin, he boasts an impressive 26-6 career record as a starter. Hornibrook will be a big boost to the quarterback room, bring more competition into the fold and give Florida State another option on the roster.       

Though Hornibrook's upcoming arrival will certainly help, the Seminoles, without Francois and with recent recruiting misses and the 2018 transfer of Bailey Hockman, do not currently have a lot of depth at the game's most high-profile position. They do, however, have a QB1. Who Blackman was to where he was going to be on the depth chart to how good he could be, a lot of questions have been asked about Blackman throughout his career; as the off-season settles in, he is now the answer.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports