TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With Florida State’s fall camp set to begin next week. Seminoles.com is taking a position-by-position look at the 2017 Seminoles. First up are the quarterbacks.
Welcome back: Deondre Francois (6-2, 205; RSo.), J.J. Cosentino (6-5, 230; RJr.)
Fresh faces: James Blackman (6-5, 180; Fr.), Bailey Hockman (6-2, 187; Fr.)
So long, farewell: Sean Maguire (64 passing yards, two TDs in 2016, graduated), Malik Henry (redshirt year, transferred)
For the first time since 2014 – and only the third time of Jimbo Fisher’s tenure as head coach – Florida State has a returning starter under center. Deondre Francois, a third-year sophomore from Orlando, is back after a promising first season in which he threw for the most passing yardage (3,350) of any freshman quarterback in the country and earned ACC Rookie of the Year honors.
Other highlights included leading the Seminoles to their largest come-from-behind victory in school history (a 45-34 triumph over Ole Miss in his first collegiate game), wins in his first appearances against Florida and Miami and guiding FSU’s late, game-winning drive to beat Michigan in the Orange Bowl.
Additionally, Francois helped lead an offense that was the best in the country in the red zone and that converted 44 percent of its third-down attempts.
“He was great in all those scenarios,” Fisher said at ACC Kickoff earlier this month. “That’s what I’m so proud of. That’s very rare for a freshman to be able to accomplish.”
Francois recently said that he’d like to improve his accuracy and decision-making in Year 2, and he’s also mindful of the fact that, with Dalvin Cook and three veteran receivers no longer in the fold, he’s now the veteran voice in the offensive huddle.
That’s a far cry from a year ago, when Francois, then a redshirt freshman, was the newcomer in a group led by Cook and further bolstered by receivers Travis Rudolph, Bobo Wilson and Kermit Whitfield.
Becoming a leader in the locker room is a new challenge, but it’s one that Francois embraces.
“He’s our Commander-in-Chief,” Fisher said. “We’re going to make sure he’s protected. That ball, we’re going to catch it for him. We’re going to break that extra run. And I think he earned that respect last year by how he played, the toughness he played with, the competiveness.
“And now they’re seeing him a different way.”
While Francois is entrenched as the starter, he is also the only Seminole quarterback with significant experience. Redshirt junior J.J. Cosentino, while the oldest quarterback on the roster, has thrown only nine passes during his career. And behind him are two true freshmen, although one of them – Bailey Hockman – enrolled in January.
One new quirk in the quarterback room? Hockman is left-handed. FSU hasn’t had a left-handed quarterback since Will Secord in 2009.
Would a freshman be able to contribute, if needed?
Francois is the no-doubt No. 1, and, given Cosentino’s experience, FSU is probably set at its top two spots on the depth chart.
But while unlikely, it’s certainly not unheard of that a team could need its third quarterback at some point during a season. And the third man up for Florida State will almost certainly be a freshman.
Hockman seems to have the inside track to be that freshman after enrolling early and earning a reputation from coaches and teammates as a quick learner.
That Hockman is the son of a high school football coach and has been around the game for most of his life doesn’t hurt, either.
“He’s going to be a really good player,” Fisher said in the spring. “I like where he’s going.”