TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – It felt a little bit like August on Tuesday morning at the Florida State practice fields, and not just because of unseasonably warm temperatures in Tallahassee.
During one drill, Deondre Francois, a full participant following his recovery from an injury, ran – and threw – with the first-team offense.
During the next rotation, James Blackman took the reins.
The two are seemingly splitting reps, just as they did during fall camp, in a race to be Florida State’s starting quarterback Saturday at Notre Dame.
Coach Willie Taggart answered “We’ll see,” when asked who would lead the huddle in South Bend, but he also said that his decision would come down to which quarterback has the better week of practice.
Sounds an awful lot like a quarterback competition.
WATCH: Deondre Francois, Nov. 6
“We compete on the field because we play football,” Blackman said. “That’s the way the sport goes. Other than that, there’s nothing different.”
Francois earned the starting job in the fall and threw for 2,039 yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions in FSU’s first seven games.
And despite missing last week’s visit to North Carolina State due to an injury, Francois said Tuesday that he expects to be back at the top of the depth chart sooner rather than later.
“I’m still the No. 1 guy,” he said. “Coach Taggart continues to make that clear, and James understands that. But James is always ready, always ready to go.”
Blackman was plenty ready for NC State, which might be the biggest reason there’s a race in the first place.
Making his first start in nearly a year, Blackman carved up the Wolfpack secondary for 421 yards and four scores in the biggest passing day for an FSU quarterback since Jameis Winston in 2013.
Blackman threw to all areas of the field, distributed the ball to a deep group of receivers and occasionally made plays with his legs.
The Seminoles didn’t get the outcome they wanted in Raleigh, but there’s little doubt that Blackman’s performance, and the offensive production that followed, gave them something to feel good about.
WATCH: James Blackman, Nov. 6
“I saw a lot of things we haven’t seen this year,” receiver D.J. Matthews said after the game. “I just believe those are things we can (build) on. We can gain from that. And I think we’re headed in the right direction.”
“I thought he played really admirably, given the situation, the environment,” offensive coordinator Walt Bell added. “Excited about how he played.”
Regardless of who starts Saturday, both Francois and Blackman are adamant that they’ll support each other.
Each has had plenty of practice with it. An injured Francois served as a mentor to Blackman when Blackman started 12 games as a true freshman.
Blackman returned the favor when Francois reclaimed the job earlier this year.
“That’s my brother. There’s no way around it,” Blackman said. “He showed me the ropes … He’s in my ear every time I come to the sideline.”
Which isn’t to say they’re the same person.
It’s no secret that Blackman is one of the team’s most visible presences on the sideline, and that his upbeat personality has made him popular both in the locker room and with Florida State’s fan base.
Taggart, though, cautioned against reading too much into that, particularly when it comes to evaluating Francois.
Francois might be a quieter, lead-by-example type. But that doesn’t mean he can’t lead effectively.
“Those are two different personalities,” Taggart said. “Francois, he doesn’t say much, but when he does, he speaks intelligently. He says things that his teammates need to hear….
“So those guys are really good for each other and great teammates to each other and understand why they both came here.”
And while virtually everyone who follows the program is likely to have an opinion on who should start both this week and beyond, a handful of Seminoles said Tuesday that it doesn’t make much difference to them.
“It doesn’t matter who’s out there,” center Alec Eberle said. “We’re going to do our best to get things going. Whether it’s James or Deondre, I think they both do a great job of controlling the huddle and controlling the offense.”