December 18, 2014 - by
Winston, Franklin help FSU defense prepare for Mariota

By Tim Linafelt Senior Writer
@Tim_Linafelt on Twitter

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The numbers suggest that Marcus Mariota is almost unstoppable.

The Oregon quarterback has passed for 3,783 yards, run for another 669 and accounted for 52 total touchdowns (38 passing, 14 rushing).

Along with Mariota’s eye-popping statistics came a slew of awards, including the Heisman Trophy.

So stopping – or even slowing down – Mariota will be a challenge.

But Florida State feels like it’s got a fighting chance, primarily because of two quarterbacks it has on its roster.

First, of course, is starter Jameis Winston.

The other is third-year sophomore John Franklin III, who is handling scout-team duties in hopes of simulating Mariota.

Winston allows the FSU defense to practice against a Heisman Trophy winner every day. He and Mariota have different styles, but sophomore DB Jalen Ramsey believes that competing with someone of Winston’s caliber is great preparation for any player in the nation.

“Jameis is the best player in America,” Ramsey said. “I go against him (every day) in practice.”

Battling Winston, Ramsey says, doesn’t allow a defensive back to lose focus for a single play.

“We know we can’t relax, we know we can’t slack off,” he said. “He might look the other way and then throw it to your man. So you relax, he completes a pass.

“That really teaches us what our job is, what we have to do and not taking a play off.”

Franklin, meanwhile, figures to have an impact on the game, even if he never sets foot on the Rose Bowl field.

A Plantation native who has split time between QB and WR, Franklin has become FSU’s go-to guy for emulating dual-threat quarterbacks.

He served as the scout-team QB for Auburn’s Nick Marshall last year and Georgia Tech’s Justin Thomas in the ACC Championship Game earlier this month.

“[Mariota] does a real good job of throwing on the run. He’s very consistent,” Franklin said. “He makes plays running and throwing. I feel like, in that way, we’re kind of similar. We kind of emulate each other.”

Perhaps the biggest thing that Franklin brings to the fold is speed. He’s a sprinter for FSU’s track team and clocked a 4.38-second 40-yard dash in high school.

Ramsey thinks Franklin is “probably the fastest quarterback in the country.”

Which is good, because Mariota and the Ducks will probably present the fastest offense the Seminoles have seen this season. Oregon runs at a blazing pace, rushing to the line between plays and snapping the ball as soon as possible.

If a defense is unprepared, it can wreak havoc. And the Ducks’ Top-3 rankings in total offense, scoring offense and passing efficiency suggest that it usually does.

FSU’s defenders have compared Oregon’s attack to Auburn’s and Clemson’s, but said that Mariota takes the Ducks to another level.

“I’ve seen him pull the ball down on a couple of reads and be able to outrun the defensive ends, linebackers and even DBs,” FSU linebacker Terrance Smith said. “Usually you don’t see that from a quarterback.”

That’s where Franklin comes in. No one expects Franklin to perform at Mariota’s level, but just getting the Seminoles acclimated to the speed they’ll see in Pasadena could be a huge boost.

Franklin has embraced that responsibility.

“Knowing mainly that you’re the guy they’re relying on to get that look, that’s a big role,” Franklin said. “And you’ve got to accept that as if it’s a big role.

“You may not be on the field playing, but getting the defense ready to stop that (Oregon offense), you’ve got to take that real seriously.”

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