The Daily Nole

FSU Football: Freshmen Shining Amid Disappointing Season athletics

A season that started with national and ACC championship aspirations has fallen by the wayside just more than a month into 2017 for Florida State. Hurricane Irma did the Seminoles no favors, but Saturday’s 24-20 loss at home to Miami dropped FSU to 1-3 on the year, which marks its worst start since Bobby Bowden’s first season as head coach, back in 1976.

For all that’s gone wrong, there have been some bright spots for FSU. One of the biggest has been the play of the true freshmen.

The most important one of those freshmen has become James Blackman. With a quarterback depth chart that included last year’s ACC Rookie of the Year in Deondre Francois, redshirt junior J.J. Cosentino and early enrollee Bailey Hockman, a redshirt was expected to be in store for Blackman. Following the season-ending injury to Francois in the opener against Alabama, Blackman was forced into action.

The coaching staff and play-calling have been conservative with Blackman early in games — maybe too conservative — but with the game on the line, Blackman has proven to have the “it factor” that so many teammates raved about prior to Blackman making his first career start against N.C. State.

After passing for 278 yards in the Sept. 23 loss to the Wolfpack, Blackman looked to be taking a step back the following week against Wake Forest. Entering the fourth quarter, Blackman had less than 50 yards passing for the day, but with FSU trailing 19-16 in the final quarter, Blackman’s 43-yard pass to Keith Gavin on 3rd-and-20 set up Ricky Aguayo’s game-tying field goal. With less than a minute to play, Blackman found Auden Tate from 40 yards away for the game-winning touchdown in a 26-19 FSU victory.

It was more of the same on Saturday. With FSU trailing Miami 10-3 entering the fourth quarter, Blackman led three scoring drives in the final quarter, including two with the Seminoles trailing. After Blackman’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Izzo tied the game at 10, Blackman led a field goal drive to put FSU ahead before hitting Tate for a 20-yard touchdown to put the Seminoles back in front 20-17 with 1:24 to play.

Miami unfortunately would answer for the winning score and Blackman wouldn’t touch the ball again. Moving forward, it’ll be interesting to see if the coaching staff is willing to open things up for the 6-foot-5 freshman earlier in contests.

The freshman that most were looking forward to watching coming into the season was running back Cam Akers. Akers showed his explosiveness from the early parts of the season, but did have his flaws.

Rather than knowing the situation and picking up sure first downs or taking what was in front of him, Akers was constantly trying to make the big play, but that wound up costing his team yardage. Of late, Akers has been much more of a downhill runner while improving in other aspects of his game.

Akers was outstanding in pass protection on FSU’s final offensive play of the game as Blackman found Tate for the go-ahead touchdown with 1:24 to play. That block came on a day where Akers rushed for a career-high 121 yards on 20 carries.

On defense, freshmen Joshua Kaindoh and Marvin Wilson are beginning to provide depth for an already talented defensive line. Kaindoh, who enrolled early, has been in the rotation from the first day and has 0.5 tackles for loss to his name. Wilson has progressed more gradually, but saw plenty of the field in Saturday’s loss to the Hurricanes.

In the secondary, Stanford Samuels, an FSU legacy, has been picked on a bit. The freshman cornerback was beat deep for Alabama’s first touchdown in the opener and by Braxton Berrios for a score on Saturday.

Samuels also came up with his first career interception at an opportune time. With Miami leading 10-3 and driving to make it a 2-score game, Samuels intercepted Miami’s Malik Rosier in the end zone to thwart a potential scoring drive.

Also providing depth in the secondary has been freshman safety Hamsah Nasirildeen. With the exception of a personal foul on Saturday, Nasirildeen hasn’t done anything too outstanding or detrimental, which is a good sign. He does have six tackles this season.

At 1-3 and 0-2 at home, one would be hard-pressed to find anyone who considered the 2017 campaign for FSU to be anything but a disappointment. Some might call it a disaster.

Moving forward, there is plenty of uncertainty to go around, especially regarding the coaching staff. As far as player personnel goes however, the future looks very, very bright.

Mike Ferguson is the editor of The Daily Nole. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson

One Comment

  1. mmccscribe

    October 9, 2017 at 4:36 pm

    Blackman has come a long way in just three games, and it’ll be interesting to see the QB competition next year. I know everyone likes to pound on the offensive line, but we graduate very few guys, so next year’s line should be superb.

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