TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Injured Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois has had to watch from the sidelines as the Seminoles have staggered to their worst start in 41 years.
The sophomore suffered a season-ending knee injury during a 24-7 loss to Alabama on Sept. 2. The pain he felt when he was injured may be gone, but Francois says it hurts to see his teammates struggle.
"Me being a competitor and wanting to play it hurts watching from the sideline because of my understanding the game and how things can be different," Francois said Tuesday in his first public comments to the media since he was injured. "I've been trying to encourage the guys and trying to help out."
Coach Jimbo Fisher and wide receiver Auden Tate said that Francois has been a frequent presence at practice and given freshman James Blackman as much guidance as he can.
"He's been a good vocal presence for James because he went through a lot of those situations last year," Tate said. "He still watches a lot of the practices. Taking the time to go over the film and giving us feedback shows he is still with us."
Fisher was hopeful following Francois' injury that he could be back at some point for spring football. However, Francois said that it is still too early in his rehabilitation to have any ideas about when he might be able to return. Sunday will mark two months since Francois had surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon in his left knee.
Francois said his rehabilitation currently is focused on getting power back in his quad along with doing calf raises. He added that they aren't pushing the knee too hard yet but are still doing enough.
"I don't know what type of healer I am. I want to be back as soon as I can. But you can't rush an injury like this," he said. "It doesn't matter what type of player you are, you have to take it slow."
Francois is one of three offensive starters who suffered season-ending injuries and the numbers for Florida State show how much they are missed.
Going into Saturday's game against Syracuse, Florida State (2-5, 2-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) has scored just 122 points and is averaging a Power 5-worst 24.3 points per game. It is FSU's worst output thru seven games since 1975, when the Seminoles had just 75 points and finished with 187 in 11 games.
Last week's 35-3 loss at Boston College marked the first time in 125 games (Sept. 20, 2008, vs. Wake Forest) that the Seminoles failed to score a touchdown.
The last time Florida State started 2-5 was 1976. That also marked the last time it did not have a winning season.
"We understand we are not playing to par as players. We have to do a better job. I'm just trying to stay positive, give everyone a level head and continue to work," Francois said.
Blackman, who has started six games since Francois was hurt, has thrown seven interceptions in his past 91 attempts after not throwing one in his first 71. Blackman has also had to deal with a diminished receiving corps and the loss of leading running back Jacques Patrick in an Oct. 21 defeat to Louisville.
Francois said that has made Blackman's growing pains more difficult.
"My situation was better because I had a year to redshirt and I was able to be in the playbook," Francois said. "It's a tough situation for him. Going into battle not knowing a lot of the playbook because you just got here is a tough task. Seeing him battle and have that grit amazes me."
Last season, Francois led the Seminoles to 10 wins, directed six fourth-quarter rallies (including four wins) and threw for the fifth-most yards in school history (3,350).
"At first the injury was very devastating and detrimental to me and my family. We worked so hard to get here," Francois said. "Every athlete gets hurt, though, and you have to take the bitter with the sweet."