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Willie Taggart discusses increased intensity ahead of Florida and the growth of Dontavious Jackson

Jackson has led the team in tackles in each of the past two weeks.

NCAA Football: Florida State at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Any former player will tell you there is a different energy when it comes to rivalry week. Heck, even fans (who hate each other all the time) are on another level for one week out of the year.

With bragging rights on the line, the intensity is always ramped up. However, for FSU, much more is on the line than being able to talk trash for one more year. With a decades old bowl streak in jeopardy, Florida State Head Coach Willie Taggart says he saw a shift in the way his team was practicing starting last week.

“To be honest with you, I saw it last week in practice,” Taggart said. “The intensity stepped up and guys were challenging each other a lot more than they have been. We got good results behind it and I think our guys want to continue to do that and understand that i show we have to practice and be able to translate it onto the football field.”

One of Florida State’s more passionate players, Dontavious Jackson, will be key to whether the Seminoles come away with a win on Saturday. Jackson’s attitude on defense has earned him respect as a leader and empowers him to play at a high level. The junior has tallied 25 tackles over the past two weeks, including a sack.

Willie Taggart is excited about the development he has seen from his linebacker and says channeling his emotion properly has led to more production on the field.

“He is growing big time,” Taggart said. “That’s who D-Jax is. I always told him, ‘I don’t want you to lose your enthusiasm or your passion for the game because that’s who you are and the defense needs someone like that. You also got to channel it in the right directions and make sure you don’t to anything to hurt the football team.’ Each week he has gotten better. I think at first he stopped being who he was and we didn’t want that to stop because the production stops when that happens. To see him continue to grow and help our team and still play with passion has been big.”