Florida State gives ACC quarterback identity in down year

The ACC may have Lamar Jackson, but Deondre Francois gives the conference its best chance at the national title. Florida State looms larger than Louisville.

Florida State football reached its fifth consecutive double-digit win season largely due to freshman quarterback Deondre Francois. Jimbo Fisher brought Francois along quickly and it paid off with a 10-3 record and a 33-32 Orange Bowl win over Michigan.

Although he’s got just one year under his belt, Francois will have the entire ACC’s quarterback reputation on his back. The 2016 stars of Deshaun Watson, Mitch Trubisky, Brad Kaaya and Jerod Evans are gone. Furthermore, multi-year starters Nathan Peterman and Justin Thomas are gone as well.

Now, it’s not lost on me that the returning Heisman Trophy winner plays quarterback in the ACC. Lamar Jackson is a talent and everyone knows what he brings to the table. However, the ACC’s shot at a national title go through Florida State. History speaks for itself.

In order for them to reach such a level, they need Francois to repeat and improve upon his success. There are many things that made his 2016 season great, but his best trait is his toughness. Francois took a beating to his 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame this season. Despite being a dual threat quarterback, he was sacked 34 times. Even with a bumps and bruises year, he threw for 3,350 yards, 20 touchdowns and just seven interceptions while adding five touchdowns on the ground.

He was a playmaker that made some shined on the national stage. Against Ole Miss, Miami, Florida and Michigan, he was composed. That’s a trait that usually comes with experience, but he’s no ordinary redshirt freshman.

Francois started slow against Ole Miss, but he finished in the win column. It says a lot about a young quarterback to stay above water even when you are trailing. He fell behind 28-6 at one point against Ole Miss and still managed to rally the Seminoles to a win 45-34.

Against Michigan, he weathered a massive momentum shift late to clinch a January Bowl win. He doesn’t just have impressive inward traits. He also boasts a cannon for an arm, mobility and understanding of the game. Fisher’s offense is complex and he executed well for the most part.

In terms of 2017, I wouldn’t expect anything less from Francois. The offensive line will be more experienced and that is biggest key to his improvement. Dalvin Cook and Travis Rudolph may be gone, but the offense will expand around Francois this year.

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