TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – As far as James Blackman is concerned, this week is the same as any other. He’s trying to support his teammates as best he can, and he’s preparing in practice as if his number could be called at any time.
The circumstances surrounding this week, however, are a little bit different. Florida State coach Willie Taggart said Monday that quarterback Deondre Francois is “day-to-day” in his recovery from an apparent injury sustained Saturday against Clemson.
If Francois can’t practice this week, he won’t play Saturday at North Carolina State. Which means that Blackman, who started 12 games in place of the injured Francois last season, could again find himself as the Seminoles’ starting quarterback.
FSU visits NC State at 3:30 p.m., Saturday.
“It doesn’t change at all,” Blackman said of his mindset. “I’ve been working all my life, and I’m coming to work every day – if I am the starter or not.”
Both Taggart and offensive coordinator have been mostly mum about their plans at quarterback, but tea-leaf readers have found a few potential hints.
Blackman was a featured guest on the Willie Taggart Talk Show on Monday night, and he spoke to reporters before Tuesday’s practice for the first time since Taggart named Francois the full-time starter in August.
And although Francois was in attendance at practice – and showed no visible signs of an injury – Blackman took first-team reps once the team began position drills.
(The same thing has sometimes happened before, after particularly physical games.)
“We’re going to assess (Francois) throughout the week and see where he is,” Taggart said Monday. “But (he’s) got to get the majority of the practice reps to be able to go play like we need him to play.”
Blackman threw for 2,230 yards, 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions as a true freshman a year ago, but has only played a handful of snaps since Francois’ return.
Blackman’s most recent outing, though, was encouraging: He completed 3 of 4 passes for 88 yards, including a 73-yard touchdown, near the end of Saturday’s loss to Clemson.
In a way, Blackman’s effort was reflective of his attitude toward the Seminoles’ season – things haven’t gone exactly as planned, but he has no intentions of giving up.
“We’re not quitting,” Blackman said Tuesday. “Everyone is saying that we’re quitting. Just know you have guys out there still fighting.”
That attitude hasn’t gone unnoticed by Blackman’s teammates, who to a man have said that he remains one of FSU’s key leaders, despite spending most Saturday afternoons on the sideline.
Indeed, Blackman can often be seen going over strategy in the huddle, celebrating big plays and rallying his peers when things are down.
“That’s a true teammate right there,” tight end Gabe Nabers said. “He comes to work every day with the same attitude, no matter what the circumstances.”
“That’s one of the things that makes James special,” Bell said. “I’m always proud of James – how he works, how he handles his business and how important this team is to him. As long as he doesn’t change and keeps doing what he’s doing, I think he’s got a really bright future ahead of him.”
Whether that future gets a kick-start this week remains to be seen, but if Blackman is under center in Raleigh, he’s confident that he can lead the Seminoles’ offense.
If anything, time out of the spotlight that comes with starting might have given him a better chance to step back, get a big-picture view of Taggart’s offense and develop a better feel for what he’s asked to do.
“I just feel like I came in a little bit off-target,” he said. “I’m starting to get comfortable and hit my targets better.”
Blackman feels that the same can be said for the remainder of the Seminoles’ season. FSU has four games left, three against ranked opponents and two on the road. The final stretch may be daunting, but, no matter his role, Blackman expects the Seminoles to have a finish to remember.
“Man, we’re supposed to be undefeated right now,” he said. “That just lets you know I’ve got all the confidence in the world.
“I just know we’ve got great things coming.”