TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois will have season-ending knee surgery Tuesday, leaving command of the offense to a true freshman.
Coach Jimbo Fisher said Monday that Francois faces four to seven months of rehabilitation after his operation on Tuesday to repair the torn patellar tendon in his left knee.
Francois was hurt during the fourth quarter of last Saturday's 24-7 loss to top-ranked Alabama in Atlanta.
Fisher said he spoke to Francois on Sunday and added that the 6-foot-2, 205-pound sophomore feels disappointed that he will be out for the rest of the season. Fisher added this was the first time that he has had a player suffer this type of injury and that it normally happens to players in their late 20's.
"You become so connected as a team when you're a quarterback, when you go through the work habits and the things you have to do to play at this level, you feel like you let them down," Fisher said.
Fisher also announced that James Blackman of Belle Glade, Fla., will start for the third-ranked Seminoles when they host Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday. Blackman was in for the final series against Alabama but didn't attempt a pass.
Guard Landon Dickerson said that Blackman has shown a good command in the huddle during practices and in limited game situations.
"He does a great job. As a freshman coming in, it can be challenging sometimes," Dickerson said. "But I like that he has confidence in what he says and saying stuff with confidence affects the whole team. The way he talks can make everyone else go on with him."
The last time Fisher had to start a true freshman was 1998 when he was the offensive coordinator at Auburn. Gabe Gross started nine games for the Tigers, who went 3-8.
The only other time a FSU quarterback started as a true freshman was Chip Ferguson in 1985. The previous seven freshmen to start under center — including Francois and 2013 Heisman winner Jameis Winston — were redshirts.
Francois' injury also means that Florida State becomes the least experienced Power Five school at quarterback. The four remaining QB's have no starts and a combined six appearances, easily eclipsing Minnesota (10 appearances, one start) and South Carolina (nine appearances, eight starts). Junior J.J. Cosentino has played in five games the past two seasons. Also on the roster are true freshman Bailey Hockman and walk-on freshman Jake Rizzo.
Blackman showed a strong arm and ability to quickly grasp the playbook during preseason practices, but at 6-5 and 185 pounds there are some questions about durability.
"You have to do what your team can do and how he fits into the team concept. You can't play around him you play around your team," Fisher said. "He was going against our first-team defense in every scrimmage. He produced and made a lot of good plays against a very good defense."
Fisher should have a good chance to evaluate all of his options this week before the schedule gets more difficult. Following Louisiana-Monroe, the Seminoles host No. 18 Miami (Sept. 16) and North Carolina State (Sept. 23).
Florida State does have experience in dealing with season-ending injuries to team leaders. Last season it lost safety Derwin James after he injured his knee in the second game against Charleston Southern. FSU is hoping history doesn't repeat itself since it proceeded to lose two of its next three games after James' injury.
James, who played well against Alabama, said he expects to make things difficult on Blackman this week in practices.
"We'll be showing him different coverages and how it's going to be in the game," James said. "Just giving him the best look that I can give him and mixing it up for him, making it tough to read for him, holding my disguise and stuff."