James Blackman says that Florida State’s offense isn’t too different. But the tempo? Yes, that’s different.
“No more huddling,” the former Glades Central star said Wednesday. “We’re going to be moving quickly.”
Blackman began to show just how quickly a few minutes later, running the offense in the first day of FSU’s spring practices. The pace was quick, much faster than in previous years but also likely not as fast as new coach Willie Taggart would like.
If Day 1 was any indication, the Seminoles are fully invested in the new system although there are some growing pains. FSU has just four scholarship wide receivers this spring, and the first practice included a high number of drops mixed in with some nice catches.
Blackman, who is part of a three-man quarterback competition with Deondre Francois and Bailey Hockman, said the players have begun to study the playbook and get familiarized with Taggart’s Gulf Coast Offense. At Oregon in 2017, Taggart’s offense averaged 36 points per game. And in 2016 at USF, the offense averaged 43.6 points per game.
Taggart created a buzz when he was hired in December by stating that his offense was “Lethal Simplicity,” and that has carried over to spring practices. A sign at the practice field says “Speed Limit Fast” and long banners cover the walls of the practice field with phrases like “Make no excuses,” “Blame no one” and “Do something.”
It’s evident that the Seminoles will do something. And they will do something fast.
“This offense is way faster,” Blackman said. “It gets defenses little time to set up. The play calls that they give us, we’re getting them down pretty well. We’ve been working them out in 7-on-7 by ourselves.”
That initiative, in part, illustrates Blackman’s leadership. Just six months ago, he was forced to start for FSU as a true freshman after Francois’ season-ending knee injury. Blackman threw for 2,230 yards, 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, helping FSU win its last four games to finish 7-6.
Blackman was forced to be vocal, commanding a huddle of veteran players. Now, he’s taking on that responsibility again as he learns the offense and guides a young group of receivers.
“I need to be better as a leader by showing by example,” Blackman said. “That’s what I feel I need to get better at.”
Blackman has also spent the offseason adding weight, drinking protein shakes and lifting weights. He has added 12 pounds in the past few months, with Taggart joking that “he’s starting to look cut.”
“The kid has talent, that’s not an issue,” Taggart said. “He’s just now finding that talent, going to work and continuing to develop. We want him to compete and he is competing.”
That’s what Taggart wants to see in what is a wide-open quarterback competition between Blackman, Francois and Hockman. Blackman and Francois have a season of playing experience under their belt, while Hockman took a redshirt last season.
Even with Francois very limited and wearing a heavy brace on his left knee, there is no clear front-runner in the competition. Taggart isn’t expected to declare a starter until close to FSU’s season opener against Virginia Tech on Sept. 3.
“It’s going to be a great opportunity,” Blackman said. “You got two other great quarterbacks, Deondre and Bailey, and I can’t wait to compete with those guys. It’s going to be real fun just going at each other because everyone loves competition.”