WATCH: James Blackman, March 4
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – James Blackman had just misfired on a pass when a particularly vocal member of Florida State’s secondary shouted, for Blackman and anyone else within earshot:
“Uh-oh! J-Black’s gotten complacent!”
He then continued with his verbal jabbing, letting everyone on the practice fields know that surely Blackman already has FSU’s starting quarterback job sewn up, and that he can just coast between now and August 31 knowing that he’ll surely be under center when the Seminoles open their season against Boise State.
The defensive back’s sly smile suggested that he was only having a little fun at Blackman’s expense. And anyway, anyone on the Florida State football team – or, for that matter, the dozens of reporters and 100 or so fans in attendance – already knows Blackman well enough to know that any questions about his work ethic and commitment aren’t to be taken seriously.
Yes, things are a little different for Blackman this spring. As the only eligible scholarship quarterback on the roster, as well as the only one with actual, in-game experience, Blackman seems to have the inside track to the starting job.
But anyone, smack-talking defensive back or otherwise, who thinks Blackman is about to change anything about what got him to this point is likely to be mistaken.
“Still got to come out here and work hard every day, get better every day, push my teammates every day,” said Blackman, a Belle Glade, Fla., native who will be a redshirt sophomore this fall.
“Nothing has changed. The standard is still the same.”
Blackman might have a better understanding of quarterback depth charts than any player in the nation, having seen all sides of it since his arrival in 2017.
He began as a presumed third-stringer two years ago, ascended to surprise starter status following an injury to incumbent Deondre Francois, and then dropped right back down to reserve duty upon Francois’ return a year later.
In the span of two seasons, Blackman has been Florida State’s No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 quarterback.
And he’s seen just how quickly those designations can change.
Maybe that’s why he’s been able to maintain such a positive attitude throughout his two-plus seasons in Tallahassee – whether in the huddle or on the bench. Blackman might not have control over personnel decisions, but he can always control the intensity with which he practices and the example he sets in the locker room.
“Always enthusiastic,” FSU coach Willie Taggart said, when asked about Blackman. “Loves his teammates. Always has a positive attitude on things, and when you’re that way, you’ll achieve a lot of things that you want.
“I think those things are starting to come his way.”
Some of those things, like a presumed place atop the depth chart for at least the next few weeks of spring camp, are obvious.
Others are a little less so.
Blackman has a chance to become one of the best feel-good stories in the program’s recent history.
He’s beloved by fans for the way he navigated life as a true-freshman starter, and for the grace with which he handled losing his starting job a year later.
(A 421-yard, four-touchdown performance in a spot start at NC State last year didn’t hurt, either.)
And he’s beloved by teammates for the way he maintained his upbeat spirit and encouraging nature during a trying 2018 campaign.
The thought that Florida State could turn things around in Year 2 under Taggart, and that Blackman could be the one leading the charge, makes for a nice spring daydream.
“James Blackman is one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met in my life,” FSU defensive tackle Marvin Wilson said. “I’ve never seen nobody know that they’re not going to play for a year and still come out and work their ass off like James did. James came in ready to work every day. He’s a team leader.
“Anything James Blackman wants, I’ve got it for him.”
What Blackman really wants, only Taggart can give him.
And, really, only Blackman can earn it with a strong spring, a productive summer and a commanding fall camp.
That all won’t be revealed for at least a few more months.
But Blackman’s coaches and teammates, on both sides of the ball, already know that he won’t be taking anything for granted between now and then.
“If you understand James, where James comes from and how he was raised, I don’t think he’d feel ‘accomplished’ about anything,” Taggart said.
“He’s going to go out and work, be a great team leader, compete and try to help us win ball games.”