Fla. State dogged by QB trou­bles

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - LEADING OFF - Corey Clark @Corey_Clark USA TO­DAY Sports Clark writes for the Tallahassee Demo­crat, part of the USA TO­DAY Net­work.

The Florida State de­fense is na­tional cham­pi­onship good. It was ex­tremely im­pres­sive in the opener against Alabama, dom­i­nat­ing for long stretches.

But it might not mat­ter. You don’t win cham­pi­onships with a fresh­man at quar­ter­back (Ok­la­homa was the last to do it, in 1985). And it’s hard to fathom how a kid who has been on cam­pus for a month will nav­i­gate the Semi­noles’ dif­fi­cult sched­ule with­out a few more losses.

But why did Florida State have no ex­pe­ri­enced back­ups be­hind Deon­dre Fran­cois, who tore up his knee and leaves the No. 1 job to James Black­man?

The an­swer is DeAn­dre John­son and Ma­lik Henry.

John­son punched a woman at a lo­cal bar and was kicked off the team. By all ac­counts, he was a model ci­ti­zen in ju­nior col­lege and had never been in trou­ble be­fore that night in 2015. So we can’t blame coach Jimbo Fisher for a re­cruit­ing mis­take. But John­son was rightly and swiftly dis­missed.

In ret­ro­spect, the re­cruit­ment of Henry was a pretty se­vere mis­step. The five-star kid out of Cal­i­for­nia was sup­posed to be the next great quar­ter­back at Florida State. But he switched schools ev­ery other month, it seemed, and then got booted from IMG Acad­emy in Or­lando be­fore his se­nior sea­son.

De­spite those red flags, Florida State stuck with him. He was sus­pended in­def­i­nitely in Au­gust of his fresh­man sea­son and trans­ferred in De­cem­ber.

Mean­while, it’s hard to imag­ine how red­shirt ju­nior J.J. Cosentino, who has been coached by Fisher for four years, could be passed on the depth chart by a kid in the sys­tem for a month. But that’s the re­al­ity.

So now Fisher is forced to have his first true fresh­man quar­ter­back since Gabe Gross at Auburn in 1998. Gross started nine games, com­plet­ing 44.7% of his passes for 1,222 yards, seven touch­downs and 12 in­ter­cep­tions. The Tigers went 3-8, Fisher and the Auburn staff were fired and Gross quit foot­ball the fol­low­ing year to fo­cus on base­ball.

Fisher was asked Sept. 4 how the de­vel­op­ment process changes when a young quar­ter­back such as Black­man is forced into the start­ing lineup.

“It doesn’t,” Fisher said. “Usu­ally you coach what they can do. ... But at the same time ... I didn’t see noth­ing in the rule book that says he can’t go play well or our team can’t go play well.”

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