James Blackman has been in this situation before.
When Florida State starting quarterback Deondre Francois went down late in the Seminoles' season-opening game against Alabama, Blackman got his first college snaps. Francois is now out for the season after having surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon and Blackman's college career has started a whole lot sooner than expected.
"We'll find out if he's ready," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said Monday. "We go good on good against our defense every day and that's as good as you're going to go against, probably in this country; one of them anyway. We get good on good on inside drills, team, 7-on, he throws against fast ball and then he gets the scout look.
"It's game like situation which we always do. He's gotten a lot of fastball looks against good people. Blitz looks, tons of blitz looks. Every blitz you can think of, and he's done a really nice job."
When Blackman takes the field against NC State, he'll be the first true freshman starter Fisher has had at Florida State, but this won't be the first time Blackman has seen an injury vault him up a depth chart.
As a sophomore at Glades Central High School in Belle Glade, Florida, the lanky quarterback was still playing on junior varsity. At the time, Rick Casko was the head coach at Belle Glade and had two senior quarterbacks on the varsity team.
But in the last game of the regular season, one of Casko's seniors, Jonathant Istache, hurt his shoulder. Needing another quarterback on the roster, Casko called Blackman up to varsity for the next game in the first round of the playoffs.
"I split time with [Blackman] and the other senior quarterback play for play because the senior was being disciplined," Casko said. "So James actually played a bunch in the first round. He had a really good game."
The team advanced and Blackman prepared for the second round against Miami powerhouse Booker T. Washington, which would eventually go on to win the state championship that season. In that game, Andre Tommie, the other senior quarterback, broke his femur on a first-quarter drive.
While the circumstances are eerily similar, what came after the injuries and loss to Washington in the playoffs prepared Blackman for getting on Fisher's radar as a recruit and now landing the starting job.
Blackman and Casko worked together during that offseason, throwing and studying film. In the spring of his sophomore year, D.J. McCarthy, then a coach for Florida A&M, saw Blackman in person and offered him on the spot. In the same month, the Miami coaches, under Al Golden, watched the signal-caller at their 7-on-7 camp and offered him a scholarship after his performance.
He became the full-time starter at Glades Central in his junior season and threw for over 2,000 yards and 24 touchdowns. Blackman then received an offer from Louisville, but his recruitment had yet to take off nationally.
Florida State coach Lawrence Dawsey recruits the Belle Glades area and Casko told Dawsey he needed to see his 6-foot-5 quarterback and tell Fisher about him.
"The biggest thing for them was James going to their camp," Casko said. "Jimbo talked to me on the phone and said, 'Rick, we want this kid. He's a player, technically he's strong, we want him.' I said OK and I told James they want you at camp. Louisville started to get in the picture now, too, and Blackman attended Bobby Petrino's camp in June 2016, the summer before his senior year. But Florida State was persistent about Blackman attending their camp, so Fisher could evaluate him."
Casko knew the interest was sincere because Fisher and his staff already had ESPN 300 quarterback Bailey Hockman committed and didn't need to go after another quarterback in the class.
So Blackman decided, in June before his senior season, that he would attend the Florida State camp to try to earn a scholarship offer.
"You saw it on film, athletic, moved, threw the ball extremely well, really good arm talent, came to our camp and threw the ball exceptional," Fisher said. "As you taught him drops, as you taught him things he picked it up and was very eager to learn and very natural in how he did things, just very impressive in camp. How he learned, how he retained information, how he threw the football, his accuracy, his arm strength and his size."
Fisher's instincts were right and Blackman earned an offer from the Seminoles. He committed to Florida State only a few weeks later and now finds himself in the unimaginable position of leading a team loaded with talent on both sides of the ball and one that still holds College Football Playoff aspirations.
Casko has since been in contact with his former pupil and says Blackman is, for the most part, very relaxed, comfortable and has embraced this role. There was no hint of being overwhelmed, and given Casko's knowledge of his former quarterback's football acumen, he isn't surprised.
The two discussed the new role, Casko telling Blackman that the cameras will be on him and the stadium might be a little louder but the field will still be the same size. Just to do his job and prepare the way he always has.
It's similar to the advice his new coach is giving him before he makes his first start for the No. 10 Seminoles.
"I'm going to tell him, prepare, put your time in, show him exactly what we're going to do, what's expected of him," Fisher said. "Play one play at a time, trust your eyes, process the information, make great decisions. When you get a chance to be accurate with the ball, make it. If you make a check, make a check and believe what you're doing, do it with conviction."