FSU Football: Can ‘Noles Win National Title With Francois?

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Dec 30, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles quarterback Deondre Francois (12) celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Michigan Wolverines at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

FSU football quarterback Deondre Francois exceeded expectations in year one. If he good enough to bring FSU a national championship?

Deondre Francois received a lot of accolades in his freshman season as FSU quarterback.

Francois was the ACC Offensive/Overall Freshman of the Year, and helped lead FSU football to its fifth consecutive 10 win season.

He showed incredible toughness behind an offensive line that had issues in pass protection and played hurt in multiple games.

Also, he was very good at not turning the ball over while providing enough of a running threat to give opposing defenses something to worry about.

He should be better in his second year, but will he become good enough to lead FSU football to a National Championship?

Oct 29, 2016; Tallahassee, FL, USA;  Florida State Seminoles quarterback Deondre Francois (12) walks off the field after the loss to the Clemson Tigers at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 29, 2016; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles quarterback Deondre Francois (12) walks off the field after the loss to the Clemson Tigers at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Year 1

Deondre Francois threw for over 3,000 yards with 20 touchdowns against seven interceptions. He averaged 257 yards passing per game while completing 58.8 percent of his passes.

It should be noted that he was at 60.5 percent going in to the Michigan game who features one of the best pass defenses in the nation.

He also ran for nearly 200 yards while scoring five rushing touchdowns.

Francois had success pushing the ball vertically down the field, averaging 8.4 yards per pass. However, he often struggled to complete short routes that put FSU in third and long situations.

Francois was often adept in third and long situations as he was No. 1 in the nation on 3rd down and 25+. He was tied for No. 4 in the nation on 3rd and 15+, and completed 56.4 percent of his passes on third and 10+ for touchdowns and zero interceptions.

In short, Francois exceeded expectations as a redshirt freshman with no starting experience in a complex pro-style system.

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Oct 15, 2016; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles quarterback Deondre Francois (12) during the game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Against Good Defenses

Francois exceeded expectations but often struggled against the good defenses FSU faced in 2016.

They faced a great deal of them too as they are listed below based on S&P+ advanced metrics:

  • Michigan-No. 2
  • Clemson-No. 6
  • Florida-No. 4
  • Miami-No. 13
  • Louisville-No. 19
  • NC State-No. 11
  • Boston College-No. 21
  • Wake Forest-No. 22
  • UNC-No. 44

So 61.5 percent of the defenses Francois has faced have been ranked in the top 22 in the nation, and 69 percent of the defenses in the top 50.

That’s tough sledding for any quarterback to go up against.

Let’s take a look at his results against the top three defenses he faced(listed above).

Francois was 41 of 88 (46.5 percent) for 646 yards (215 ypg) with four touchdowns and three interceptions. The FSU football offense averaged 32.6 points against the top three defenses it faced this season.

Francois wasn’t very accurate, but averaged 15.7 yards per completion against elite defenses. It’s important to note the explosive plays helped offset his inaccuracies.

It should be noted the three losses FSU suffered this season were not because of his performances for the most part.

The Louisville game we’ll throw out as it was an aberration. The UNC game was a result of the defense playing poorly.

Finally, the Clemson game was winnable, but Francois’s inaccuracies certainly didn’t help things late in the game. Admittedly, the defense could have played better in the first and fourth quarters as Clemson scored 31 points in those two quarters alone.

fsu football

Oct 15, 2016; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles quarterback Deondre Francois (12) throws the ball during the game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Can FSU Win With Francois Against Elite Teams?

Well, FSU football defeated Michigan in the season finale and frankly should have blown them out.

There were two costly turnovers that resulted in 10 Michigan points.

FSU was in position to defeat Clemson earlier in the season, and they are playing the National Championship for the second year in a row.

I think it’s fair to assume that Francois will improve from his freshman season to next year. He should be more comfortable in the offense, and the FSU defense should be much improved compared to earlier in the 2016 season.

The FSU offense started clicking in the latter half of the season and finished as the No. offense in the nation according to S&P+ metrics.

If the defense can play up to its No. 10 final season ranking in the S&P+ rankings, I think Francois is good enough to put FSU football in position to win against elite teams consistently.

fsu football

Sep 24, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles quarterback Deondre Francois (12) runs the ball for a touchdown in the second half against the South Florida Bulls at Raymond James Stadium. Florida State Seminoles won 55-35. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

Where He Needs To Improve

It’s not hard to point out the flaws that Deondre Francois has despite all the positive attributes he displayed this season.

The biggest thing he needs to improve upon is his accuracy on early passing downs. He completed 59.2 percent of his passes on first down this season for 1,605 yards. That accounted for 47.9 percent of his passing yards for the season.

Just imagine what type of stats he’d put up if he increased that percentage to 63 percent or higher? It would also keep FSU out of many third and long situations that resulted in 30+ sacks on the season.

Also, he needs to work on not holding the ball all day to throw. A number of his sacks were on the offensive line, but quite a few were coverage sacks too.

Finally, he needs to avoid the big hits he took this season. He got absolutely destroyed too many times when that shouldn’t have been the case.

Francois needs to do a better job at the line of scrimmage, getting protections better and also learning to slide properly when he becomes a runner.

If he goes through another season of getting hit the same way, there’s a good chance he wouldn’t finish the season.

The future is bright for the young quarterback. Dalvin Cook was a huge part of the offense during his time at FSU, but it’s impressive that FSU was the No. 2 offense in the country with Francois as the starting quarterback.

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