The Daily Nole

On My Mind Monday: Thoughts on James Blackman’s Ceiling, Career to this Point athletics

Discussing football can be an enormously frustrating task when one side is unwilling to accept that multiple things can be true at once. Often times, people interpret one statement as contradicting another, when in fact both can accurately capture a situation.

If it sounds vague, I apologize — it’s a hard phenomenon to describe without specific examples. So let’s turn to a concrete example: James Blackman and how he has performed for Florida State in 2019.

Not a single reputable person is going to place James Blackman as one of the pressing issues of the team. In fact, he’s probably not even top-5 in terms of “problems that need to be dealt with”. Most would look at his numbers and assume he’s been one of the main catalysts for offensive success: Blackman is completing over 68 percent of his passes on 7.6 yards per attempt, to go along with nine touchdowns to just two interceptions.

He’s thrown for three scores in each contest and a school-record tying five straight starts dating back to 2017; he also ran one in during the Week 2 contest against Louisiana-Monroe. He’s already at a much better mark than Deondre Francois was at this point last year, and he has sparked life into an offense that was otherwise stagnant in 2018.

Blackman has done well. That we can all agree on.

Where the disconnect happens is the discussion about whether or not he could be better. We first saw hints that Blackman was not the complete package during the Boise State opener. A second half shutout was in part due to him missing open receivers down the field, a few of which could have turned the tide into Florida State’s favor. First game of the season however? Who knows, could have been just nerves.

Then the Louisiana-Monroe contest happened. Blackman looked fine to start the game, and Florida State once again looked on its way to an easy victory. Then two second half turnovers almost completely flipped the game on its head. The first was a miscommunication that is not totally on Blackman.

The second was an interception that gave the Warhawks a short field, which they quickly turned into a touchdown and a lead. From there on out, Blackman caught fire and was able to lead FSU to an overtime victory. Perhaps this was the turning point?

After the Virginia game on Saturday, I think we can all say that Blackman is coming close to his ceiling in Kendal Briles’ offense. Did Blackman do enough for FSU to win the game? Maybe. But it’s hard to ignore how terrible of a start he had, and how terrible of an ending it turned into. Blackman missed wide open receivers in the final series that would have given FSU another chance in overtime to try and pull off the upset.

Yet maybe the Seminoles wouldn’t have needed it if Blackman was more consistent in the previous frames. Overall, he had a fine game against a good defense, yet everyone saw the points left off the board. They also saw the ground balls that kept hitting the dirt before they ever connected with a receiver’s hands.

All this is to say that anyone expecting Blackman to take the next step forward might be disappointed. Many of the mistakes he has made have little to do with the protection. It’s not great, but he has also not been swarmed by pressure.

Blackman is one of many players who have the unfortunate luck of being caught in a tumultuous time. He originally committed to a much different system and was not expected to contribute for two years. Instead, he was thrown into the fire as a true freshman and forced to try and steer a ship that was taking on water at a rapid pace.

The next season, he was put on the bench for reasons that are still unclear — but the point is, Blackman went from starting every game to being a backup who had inconsistent snaps. To start 2019, he was considered the shoe-in starter, but it came with a twist: The team brought in a different offensive coordinator. Blackman has had three different coordinators in three years, all whilst trying to perform behind an offensive line that has ranked near the bottom of the country for three straight years.

Is it really any surprise that there has been questions about Blackman’s long term projection at the position?

To summarize, I think it’s fair to say that Blackman is not the long term answer for FSU and Briles’ offense. He struggles to hit deep passes that force a defense to adjust, which in turn makes the job near the line of scrimmage much harder. If you can’t take the top off of the secondary, you’re limiting yourself and the athletes you can use.

Yet I also think Blackman is doing enough that FSU should be winning more games than it has. If the defense was able to match Blackman’s play in effectiveness, FSU would be 3-0 right now.

The best thing to do is support the guy, because he has proven enough on the field that any calls for him to get benched are way too premature. He might never be a star, but he just might be what FSU needs to progress in 2019.

Clint Eiland is the lead writer for The Daily Nole. Follow Clint on Twitter @ClintEiland. Like The Daily Nole on Facebook. To pitch an idea, author a post or to learn more about The Daily Nole, email Mike Ferguson at

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