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0 to 100: Evaluating the performance of unexpected starter James Blackman

Fair or foul, a lot has been asked of James Blackman. As the 2017 football season has failed to get off the ground for Florida State, the freshman quarterback has learned on the fly while also being graded on the steepest of curves.

Let’s take a look at the numbers behind Blackman’s performance, and how the freshman stacks up against some of his peers.

 

Under Pressure

In 2016, Florida State had all kinds of issues protecting Deondre Francois — then the starter. FSU allowed 36 sacks — fourth most in the ACC. Francois, who was sacked 34 times, registered a sack rate of 7.8 percent, per Football Study Hall.

Pass protection is an even larger issue in 2017, though. Florida State has allowed 18 sacks; three of those came in week one against Alabama, when Francois was in the lineup. According to Football Study Hall, James Blackman has been sacked 15 times in four games, and has a sack rate of 12.2 percent — an absurd number.

The Seminoles rank No. 118 in the FBS in adjusted sack rate. Going forward, Florida State needs to do a better job protecting Blackman in the pocket.

 

Check it to pancakes

The pressure faced by Blackman has impacted the offense. Florida State has some of the most talented wide receivers in the ACC, including Auden Tate. However, the deep passing game has been underutilized — due in part to the line, injuries at the receiver position and a true freshman quarterback under center. Checkdowns are the name of the game in Tallahassee.

Blackman has completed 63 percent of his passes (68-of-108), which ranks in the middle of the pack of the ACC. The rookie QB averages 7.4 yards per attempt, too; that’s good for seventh in the league. So, Blackman is reasonably average in terms of efficiency and explosiveness.

Tomahawk Nation — Florida State’s SB Nation affiliate (an absolute must-follow) — has done an excellent job tracking Blackman’s throws this season.

According to Dakota Moyer at Tomahawk Nation, 50 of Blackman’s 68 completions (86.2 percent) have come either behind the line of scrimmage or within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. Including throwaways, Blackman, per Moyer’s research, is 26-of-32 passes behind the line of scrimmage.

Black has attempted 17 passes of 21 or more yards (five completions); that means less than 16 percent of his attempts have been deep down field. On the other hand, 29.6 percent of his balls have resulted in passes behind the line of scrimmage.

In total, Blackman has only 32 completions of 10-plus yards, which ranks 13th in the ACC; he has 10 completions of 20-plus yards — also 13th in the ACC. Florida State ranks 82 nationally in Isolated Points per pass play, too.

 

What about other unexpected starters, though?

Hey, I’m glad you asked! There are a handful of other ACC signal-callers that have been unexpectedly forced in or back into duty (Brandon Harris); James Blackman isn’t alone. Here’s a look at how Blackman stacks up with four other ACC quarterback that have faced unanticipated playing time (minimum 25 pass attempts).

PlayerTeamYPACompletion RateSack RateTD
James BlackmanFSU7.463.0%12.2%5
Kendall HintonWake Forest8.958.1%10.4%4
Ben DiNucciPitt6.356.7%6.7%3
Brandon HarrisUNC5.451.7%6.3%1
Zerrick CooperClemson5.260.7%9.7%1

Now, Blackman has obviously spent far more time on the field than any of these other players; this is another act on small-sample size theatre. However, he has the top completion rate, and the second highest yards per attempts average. Kendall Hinton certainly wasn’t bashful in his performance against Clemson.

Zerrick Cooper, a redshirt freshman, saw a rather stripped down playbook while trying to lead Clemson back against Syracuse after the injury to Kelly Bryant.

It’s also important to note that of this group Blackman is the only true freshman.

 

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