Back Blackman Ready for Debut

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Blackman Ready for Debut

By Carlos Pineda
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After being sidelined for the past three weeks due to Hurricane Irma, the Seminoles are ready to take the field on Saturday afternoon, where they'll face Atlantic Division foe NC State.

The Florida State football team is anxious to play again.

After being sidelined for the past three weeks due to Hurricane Irma, the Seminoles are ready to take the field on Saturday afternoon, where they'll face Atlantic Division foe NC State at noon on ABC/ESPN 2.

The Noles, who last saw action on Sept. 2nd versus Alabama, had been scheduled to play three consecutive home games during September, but had their Sept. 9 game against Louisiana Monroe cancelled, and their Sept. 16 matchup against arch rival Miami moved to their open week on Oct. 7.

Coach Jimbo Fisher told reporters this week that the team has responded in the practices leading up to Saturday's game at Doak Campbell Stadium, but admitted to being a bit worried about the possibility of having some rust during the game.

"You worry about rust. Can it be like an opener? Yes?," he said, "Could it not be? Yes. All you can control is how you practice and your mindset going into the game."

One major storyline facing the 12th-ranked Seminoles as they head into the NC State has been the season-ending knee injury that starting quarterback Deondre Francois suffered during the fourth quarter of the Alabama game.

James Blackman saw action in FSU's final drive against the Crimson Tide but did not attempt a pass. Blackman steps into the titular role as the first FSU true freshman to start at QB since Chip Ferguson in 1985. The Belle Glade, Fla. native was rated the No. 7 pro-style quarterback and 29th overall player in Florida by 247 Sports. At 6-foot-5, he possesses great size and arm strength, passing for over 2,500 yards with 14 touchdowns in 2016 as Glades Central High School advanced to the Class 4A regional semifinals.

Studying Blackman's high school film, NC State coach Dave Doeren came away impressed with his talent.

"You can see why they wanted him there," he said, "he's coming from a nostalgic program. Tough kids, play hard, play against good competition every day. He's got a good release.

"He's got great arm strength."

Blackman won the back-up role during fall camp over redshirt junior J.J. Consentino and fellow freshman Bailey Hockman.

While the players are eager to play, the extended time off has helped the rookie get better acclimated to his new role.

"I definitely think he's taken advantage of it," Fisher said, "he's done a great job of understanding the nuances of the offense."

Blackman won't be expected to shoulder the entire load on Saturday. He'll have plenty of help on offense, with running back Cam Akers and Jacques Patrick in the backfield, and aerial targets Nyqwan 'Noonie' Murray and Auden Tate at the receiver position, and tight end Ryan Izzo. In FSU lone game this season, Akers managed to run for 30 yards against Bama's smothering defense with assistance from a strong showing along the offensive line. Murray added 29 yards, and Tate took in two receptions for 41 yards with the team's only touchdown. Izzo led all with 46 yards.

Fisher's best weapon, without a doubt is the defensive side of the ball. Led by defensive back Derwin James and linebacker Matthew Thomas, the result of the Alabama could have easily been worse than it was. The defense held steadfast against the Tide, allowing only one touchdown inside the red zone, while forcing them to settle for three field goals. The Tide was held to 269 yards of offense, and the FSU defense held them to three-of-16 on third down attempts. James, who returned after missing 11 games due to injury, made six tackles and had 0.5 sacks. Thomas led all with a game-high 10 tackles.

Florida State has won the last four meetings in the series, including last year's game in Raleigh. Last season, the Noles held the Wolfpack scoreless in the fourth quarter, while overcoming a 10-point second-half deficit to pick up a 24-20 win.
Fisher himself, has a 7-0 record as head coach in home openers.

Carlos Pineda - Carlos Pineda is a featured writer for Southern Pigskin. He covered the UCF Knights football team for Florida Today in 2010. Carlos' work has been published in the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Miami Herald, Orlando Sentinel and Orlando Business Journal. He attended the University of Central Florida. Follow Carlos on Twitter @CarlosFPineda.