CHARLOTTE, N.C. — At times last year, it seemed like Deondre Francois spent more time on his back than he did standing upright.
Against Clemson, the ACC’s Offensive Freshman of the Year was sacked six times and hit 10 more as the Tigers nearly sent the Florida State quarterback off in ambulance because he was getting hit so much in Clemson’s 37-34 victory.
“It was fun. You gotta have fun,” Francois said from the ACC Football Kickoff at the Westin Charlotte in Charlotte, N.C. “When you guys say ‘I was taking a beating,’ I don’t look at like I was taking a beating. I look at it as just playing football. I have to take the bitter with the sweet so if I want to look pretty and throw touchdown passes … I have to be able to take hits.”
No one in the ACC took as many hits as Francois did in 2016. He was sacked 36 times last year, more than any other quarterback in the league by a wide margin. In the spring, Francois said he watched a lot of film and worked on his pocket movement.
“Just little, subtle movements that can help me get away from a D-lineman and continue to keep my eyes down field. Just little things like that,” Francois said.
This year, Francois hopes to avoid getting hit so much. For one, he believes his offensive line will be much improved and second, he believes he will do a better job getting rid of the football.
“No, I don’t plan on taking as many hits,” he said. “Just polishing up my game, polishing up my protections, where I call my mikes, my hot (routes), and my sights, getting the ball out quicker, understanding the game, and I feel I like from my redshirt season to my redshirt sophomore season, the game has slowed down. I feel like just studying more film, knowing more ways that I can get the ball out quicker will prevent more hits.”
Despite the abuse he took in 2016 from opposing defenses, Florida State head coach Fisher was impressed with the way Francois handled it all and how he displayed both his mental and physical toughness at the same time.
“When guys are so talented, when they come in, they think of all the physical things, making the reads, but at the end of the day, the ability to compete and learn how to compete and learn how to process the game and move on from these situations and take the physical part of the game and understand you’re going to get hit, get pounded, and you`re going to have to come back from. There`s no excuse,” Fisher said. “You’re the quarterback. No matter how you feel, what you do, you`ve got to understand that, and I think that was something we worked hard on.
“I think he bought in totally. What I love about Deondre, he allows himself to be coached and allows you to take those steps with him, and I think our team gained tremendous respect for him. I mean, you go back and you research him on third down, in the red zone, on fourth quarter drives, five of them that took — four of them we won, one of them we gave up a lead, but he took us back and made those drives as a freshman in key moments.”
Fisher said Francois is a winner that understands how to play and make plays in big moments.
“I thought it was outstanding, and what he accomplished, and I think our team understood that,” the Seminoles’ head coach said. “Now I think they have such respect for him that they understand when he says things and does things, they respond and he’s doing a great job of communicating to his teammates and getting them to come along with him.
“I’m just very proud of the development he’s made, and he’s fun to coach.”
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