Hampton University: Deondre Francois chooses HBCU, but could it have been different?

Deondre Francois chose to play his next season with the HBCU Hampton Pirates. This choice gives Francois a chance to start early and often, but could he have had the same opportunities on a bigger stage?

It seems like Florida State can’t keep quarterbacks since Jameis Winston. The Seminoles have lost Malik Henry, De’Andre Johnson, John Franklin III, and Deondre Francois in recent years. Each quarterback was highly recruited, each one was the spotlight of the Netflix show “Last Chance U”, except for Francois, and each quarterback left Tallahassee because of domestic incidents or allegations, except for Henry and Franklin III. Francois recently left for Hampton University.

One has to ponder the question: what is in the water at Florida State that makes potential star QBs slip through their fingers? While that is a very complicated answer, each quarterback has tried to find new opportunities at different universities but not with much success. Francois could have attended Florida Atlantic (FAU) like other former FSU quarterbacks De’Andre Johnson and John Franklin IIII, but Francois chose a slightly different route than his FSU counterparts.

Johnson (Texas Southern) and Francois both chose to attend historically black universities to finish the last seasons of their college eligibility. But unlike Johnson, Francois had several different options in his transfer recruitment. Francois was first reported to walk-on at Florida Atlantic, and when that did not come to fruition, reporters spotted Francois at Alabama State on a visit. Francois then showed up at Hampton University in July, and that is where he will play his 2019 (and possibly 2020) season. And I bet Owl fans can’t help but ask, “what if?”

Currently, the Owls have redshirt sophomore Chris Robison as their returning starter. Robison transferred from Oklahoma in late August 2017 and joined the Owls in January 2018. Robison did not participate in spring practice because of a sexual battery investigation conducted by FAU student affairs where no charges were filed against him. Robison is back with the team and playing well in fall practice so far. Robison threw for 2,540 yards, 12 interceptions, and 12 touchdowns in 2018; reports say that Robison played well, but was inconsistent. With Robison’s play in 2018, Francois would have had a chance to compete for the job. He wouldn’t have been the only transfer, though.

The Owls have two transfer quarterbacks in redshirt sophomore Nick Tronti (2018 transfer from Indiana) and junior Justin Agner (2019 spring transfer from Kent State). Tronti has drawn comparisons to former Owls quarterback Jason Driskel because of his ability to break tackles and extend plays. Robison, Tronti, and Agner are the quarterback battle participants for the year and Francois would have certainly made it a four-person race. It would have depended on how quick Francois picked up the offense because he has all of the physical tools to lead any offense he joins. Francois could have even made one of the quarterbacks transfer before fall practice.

In 2018, Robison secured the job coming out of camp, but Rafe Peavy started one game because Robison was injured and De’Andre Johnson also made some flashes with his appearances despite no starts. Both Peavy and Johnson would transfer, and Robison is now the last man standing from that group. I think if this year’s quarterback battle had Francois, it would be a lot different.

Francois has been consistent on the big stage against good competition at Florida State; Robison has been inconsistent against C-USA teams. I think Francois and Robison would have battled throughout camp, but Francois would run away with the job at the end of camp. Francois is just too talented and has shown that he can fight through adversity on the field consistently. Hopefully, he would be behind a better offensive line at FAU. Had Francois enrolled at FAU, the Owls’ offense could have given Ohio State and UCF fits in their first two games. Robison now has a chance to show his goods on the big stage.

Francois could have cemented his name in the record books as one of the best Owl quarterbacks ever to hit Boca Raton. Instead, he chose to shy away from any spotlight and attend one of the best HBCU’s in the country in Hampton University. And they will be delighted to have him.

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