CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Florida State football coach Willie Taggart has been focused this offseason on adding competitive depth throughout the roster, but especially at quarterback.
With Louisville transfer Jordan Travis’ waiver for immediate eligibility still up in the air, the Seminoles head into the season with just two eligible scholarship quarterbacks on the roster: sophomore James Blackman and Wisconsin graduate transfer Alex Hornibrook.
In 2017 as a true freshman, Blackman posted 2,230 yards and 19 passing touchdowns.
After appearing in just four games last season, he retained a redshirt year, and he’s the favorite to capture the job this fall.
But on Wednesday at ACC Media Day in Charlotte, North Carolina, Taggart spoke highly of Hornibrook, who joined the Seminoles this summer after throwing 47 touchdowns in 32 starts over four seasons at Wisconsin.
“It seems like he’s been here for years. Almost every day, I see him with someone different, just getting to know the guys,” Taggart said. “The way his teammates talk about him says a lot about the work he’s put into building those relationships.”
Travis, a native of West Palm Beach, Florida, appeared in three games last season at Louisville.
Coming out of high school, he was a three-star prospect and the No. 24 dual-threat quarterback in the 2016 class.
‘Noles go to the spread
Whoever takes the snaps, he is going to lead Florida State’s transition from a pro-style offense to a spread attack under new offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, who cut his teeth under his father, former Baylor head coach Art Briles.
“Kendal’s personality fits our players and team,” Taggart said. “He’s doing a great job of getting our guys to understand the things we want to do and play at the tempo we want to play at.”
Briles spent last season directing a wide-open spread offense at Houston, which finished last fall fourth in the FBS in scoring offense and sixth in total offense. His scheme and tempo are similar to the “Gulf Coast Offense” Taggart installed during his time at South Florida.
Last season, Florida State went 5-7 and ranked 13th in the ACC in scoring offense and 12th in total offense. This fall, Virginia hosts the Seminoles on Sept. 14.
Replacing Ryan Finley
Last season, N.C. State was led by one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the country – sixth-year signal caller Ryan Finley.
This fall, the man taking the snaps on opening weekend will only have the experience of a handful snaps to rely on.
Redshirt freshman Devin Leary and Matthew McKay and redshirt sophomore Bailey Hockman are the most likely candidates, but head coach Dave Doeren wouldn’t say on Wednesday if one had separated from the others.
True freshmen Jamie Shaw and Ty Evans are the only other quarterbacks on the roster.
“You’re talking about a transfer that came in, in January, a kid that redshirted last year and a kid that’s in his third year. There’s a lot of growth that’s going to happen from the end of the spring to the beginning of this fall,” Doeren said. “I want to see who is the leader of that group, how do these guys play for them, and who can inspire the guys around him.”
McKay is the only one who has seen game action.
Last season, he appeared in five games and completed seven of his eight pass attempts.
As a senior at Timber Creek High School in 2017, Leary was named the Gatorade State Player in New Jersey after throwing for 2,863 yards and 31 touchdowns, and he impressed during the spring.
“I’m really excited about Devin. He is one of the best young passers with true arm strength that I’ve been around,” Doeren said. “He’s going to be a really good player for us and he’s a big part of this competition.”
Hockman began his career at Florida State, where he redshirted in 2017 and decided to leave last year after former Seminole De’andre Francois was named the starter.
Hockman transferred to Hutchinson Community College in Kansas, but he wasn’t on the football team. Coming out of high school, he was a four-star recruit, according to 247sports, and he was a consensus top-15 ranked pro-style quarterback.
Dillon ready to carry load
After averaging more than 22 carries a game and becoming the first running back in Boston College history to post 1,000 rushing yards in each of his first two seasons, AJ Dillon should compete this fall with Clemson’s Travis Etienne to be the top back in the conference.
Despite missing two games last season because of an ankle injury, Dillon was second in the ACC with 227 carries and fourth with 1,108 rushing yards.
“The way I view a carry is an opportunity to help the team, and every time I get a carry, that’s respect from my teammates, offensive coordinator and coach [Steve] Addazio,” Dillon said. “It’s showing that they have faith to put the ball in my hands and that I’m going to get the job done.”