Seminole defense gears up for Ducks
Florida State’s defense has been putting in some extra time after practice leading up to the Rose Bowl.
The third-seeded Seminoles (13-0) know they will have to play at a faster pace than they have seen this year when they face second-seeded Oregon (12-1) in the College Football Playoff semifinal Thursday in Pasadena, Calif.
“Clemson tried to have a little tempo on us,” sophomore defensive back Jalen Ramsey said of the Tigers, who lost 23-17 in overtime to FSU on Sept. 20. “Oregon is faster. They do a lot of different things.”
The most recent comparison the Seminoles have to Oregon is Auburn, which FSU beat 34-31 in the BCS National Championship Game last year.
“Auburn is the closest thing to it, but we have a lot of time now to prepare for Oregon,” junior defensive tackle Derrick Mitchell Jr. said. “Extra running always helps. We are getting in the weight room and getting on the treadmill, whatever we can do.”
The Ducks and Seminoles each have had nearly four weeks to prepare for their matchup. FSU has used that extra time to get ready for Oregon’s blur offense.
“They have pretty good speed at certain positions, but we play in the ACC so we play a lot of different spread teams,” junior linebacker Terrance Smith said. “Oregon’s tempo is what they try to depend on. They don’t run too many trick plays, but if they do hit a big play they will be at the line ready to snap it again. A big part of our defense is being in the right condition, having the mindset to beat them back to the ball. Get to the next play and keep the game going.”
That has been a priority especially for the front seven.
“Oregon runs the play and then the offensive linemen do their job and try to hurry back to the line of scrimmage,” Mitchell said. “It is not really a problem for the skill positions. They line up where they are going. For us, the main thing is the offensive line and their speed. That will be the biggest thing, but conditioning plays a good part in that. Luckily we have a little more time than the average week to get into condition for them.”
FSU players have been getting a workout both during and after practice.
“A lot of conditioning,” Ramsey said. “Even when we go against our offense, we have to run back to the ball, make an effort of it. We want to beat them to the ball and get lined up. We do pursuit drills and a little extra running after practice.”
When the Seminoles took a break for Christmas this week, coach Jimbo Fisher said he was pleased with his team’s preparation.
“We had great workouts during the whole bowl practices,” he said. “We have been very focused and detailed and enjoyed it. They work hard with a smile on their face. I think we are in a great place.”
To prepare for Oregon’s speed, Florida State has used redshirt freshman quarterback John Franklin III on its scout team as it did last year while preparing for Auburn. Franklin reached the finals in the 100 meters during the ACC Track and Field Championships last spring.
“He’s one of the fastest guys on this team,” Smith said. “To get that real-time speed of the game in practice helps us out a lot.”
The Seminoles know it will take more than speed to replicate Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.
“It’s like last year, (Franklin) had to act like Nick Marshall at Auburn,” Ramsey said. “It’s more important this year because Mariota keeps a lot of plays alive by scrambling with his feet. I think John is probably the fastest quarterback in the country. Nobody can compare to him. He can do it on the track and brings it to the field, so he prepares us very well.”
Florida State has relied on film study for a better preview of Mariota.
“He has pretty good speed for a quarterback,” Smith said. “To see him pull the ball out in a couple reads and outrun defensive ends, linebackers and even defensive backs, you usually don’t see that in a quarterback. Usually you see that in skill people, but he has good speed.”
The Seminoles have four days left to prepare for the Ducks.
“We have picked up our intensity in practice,” Smith said. “We have done a little conditioning afterward. It is just tempo, our focus is to beat them back to the ball. We want to be waiting on them when they get the ball ready to snap it.”