Florida State insisted during its preseason camp that the quarterback competition was close.
James Blackman had an early edge in relevant experience, but Wisconsin transfer Alex Hornibrook made up ground despite not joining the team until after spring practice ended.
A day after naming Blackman the starter for Saturday’s opener against Boise State, coach Willie Taggart said the two were almost identical statistically and in how they operated his offense. The deciding factor, then, was more emotional than physical.
“I think James has the football team,” Taggart said Monday during his weekly news conference.
Blackman has it because of what the 6-foot-5, 195-pound South Bay native has endured through his first two seasons in Tallahassee.
He was thrust into action earlier than the program would have liked in 2017 when Deondre Francois injured his knee in Week 1. Blackman took lumps —physical and metaphorical — during his 11 starts that season, when he ranked third nationally among freshmen with 2,230 passing yards.
Francois regained the starting job last year, putting Blackman back on the bench. Blackman wasn’t happy, but he didn’t bolt through the transfer portal.
“He’s what a big-time college quarterback’s supposed to be like…” Taggart said. “Hopefully a lot of those guys see his perseverance and determination and will power.”
Blackman, a redshirt sophomore, has completed 59.2 percent of his passes for 24 touchdowns and 12 touchdowns in 17 games (12 starts).
Hornibrook will be the team’s No. 2 option ahead of Louisville transfer Jordan Travis. It doesn’t sound as if FSU will use multiple quarterbacks in Week 1, which means what Taggart said is undeniable.
This is Blackman’s team.