TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – In back-to-back seasons, James Blackman was ready when his team needed him, serving as Florida State’s starting quarterback when injuries shook the depth chart.
Now in his third year at FSU, Blackman is ready to take the job on a full-time basis.
Florida State head coach Willie Taggart announced on Sunday that Blackman, a redshirt sophomore with 13 games of starting experience, will be the Seminoles’ quarterback when they open the season against Boise State on August 31.
Molded in the “muck” at Glades Central High, Blackman exploded onto the scene in his freshman year at FSU when, just one game into the 2017 campaign, he took over as the Seminoles’ starter after an injury to Deondre Francois.
In an instant, a player who many pundits thought was a prime candidate for a redshirt year was thrust into one of the most challenging jobs in sports. He responded by throwing for 2,230 yards – third-most nationally among freshmen – and 19 touchdowns.
A pillar in the locker room from the day he set foot on campus, Blackman guided FSU through a tumultuous 2017 campaign and saved his best for when the Seminoles needed him most: He combined for 10 touchdowns, just three interceptions and 737 passing yards in the Seminoles’ four-game winning streak that ended the season.
That includes an Independence Bowl-record four touchdown passes in FSU’s postseason victory over Southern Mississippi.
The way Blackman handled himself in 2017 more than endeared him to coaches, teammates and fans.
The way that he carried himself throughout a disappointing 2018 season – in which he lost out to the returning Francois and played in just four games – made Blackman one of the most popular players in the program’s recent history.
Just listen to his teammates:
“He’s an alpha dog,” receiver Keyshawn Helton said. “He’s a leader.”
“That’s my brother,” receiver D.J. Matthews said. “It’s like my mama had him and his mama had me.”
And this, from defensive tackle Marvin Wilson: “James Blackman is one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met in my life. I’ve never seen anybody know that they’re not going to play for a year and still come out and work their (rear) off like James did. … He’s a team leader. Anything James Blackman wants, I’ve got it for him.”
Even Alex Hornibrook, the Wisconsin transfer who Blackman edged out for the job, called Blackman “a great guy,” who “has been great to me.”
Florida State fans, of course, will hope that Blackman’s feel-good story translates to feel-good results on the field.
There’s reason to believe that it will.
After all, Blackman’s 421-yard, four-touchdown outing at North Carolina State was arguably FSU’s best passing performance of 2018.
And the best that FSU’s hurry-up, no-huddle offense has looked to date.
Couple that with nine months under the tutelage of new offensive coordinator Kendal Briles – compared to just a few weeks for Hornibrook – and it’s easy to find reasons to get excited about Blackman’s potential.
“James is right where he needs to be,” Briles said. “He’s hungry and he wants to eat.”
More specifically, Briles said that Blackman’s “arm talent is really good,” that “his accuracy is better” and that he’s “a good decision-maker.”
“When you put everything together,” Briles said, “he’s a dang good quarterback.”
And, as of Sunday, he’s a dang good starting quarterback.