TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – When looking for signs that the Florida State football team has turned a corner recently, the on-field results are of course the first things to stand out.
After two losses and a skin-of-their teeth victory to start the season, the Seminoles have rallied back for consecutive, double-digit victories over conference opponents.
But another sign – and a potentially more significant one – showed up on the Florida State practice fields this week.
Because, after cruising past NC State last week, and while knowing that they don’t have a game to play this week, the Seminoles still came together for three days of crisp, focused practices that had head coach Willie Taggart smiling as he made his way back toward his office late Wednesday morning.
That Wednesday’s session was the last before three days off made it that much more impressive.
“I love the effort that our guys gave,” Taggart said. “I love the competitiveness that they came with, and the focus that they had to get better. They were really focused on what we were trying to get accomplished. That made it a good practice.”
Yes, Florida State’s next opponent likely factors into that.
The Seminoles on Oct. 12 will visit No. 2 Clemson, which is not only the defending national champion but has also defeated FSU in four consecutive seasons.
They became the first ACC school to do that last year.
And while preventing a fifth will be a heavy task, the Seminoles are at least determined to give themselves their best chance. And that starts on the practice fields.
“I think the opponent that we’re playing has something to do with it,” Taggart said, “but I also think the growth of our football team and the success we’ve had over the last couple weeks has made a difference.
“They see the way we’ve gone about practice the last couple weeks and it’s made a difference for us. It’s paying off.”
Indeed, Taggart said after last week’s 31-13 victory over North Carolina State that the Seminoles had enjoyed their best week of practices of the entire season.
And that pattern – a great week of practices followed by the desired result on Saturdays – is one that Taggart hopes the Seminoles will repeat and keep building on as the regular season nears its midway point.
That the Seminoles did that this week, knowing they’ve still got 10 days until their next game, was an encouraging sign.
“They want to practice,” Taggart said. “They want to get better and make plays. And that’s because they’ve had some success, that they’ve seen what they can do by going out and practicing hard – practicing harder than they play in the game.”
For the next few days, then, Taggart would like his team to take it easy for a little while.
They’ve been at it since the first week of August and, over the last two months, have accumulated plenty of bumps and bruises that could stand a few days away from the demands of football.
But that doesn’t mean the players are on vacation, either. Taggart expects the Seminoles to take care of their bodies, but he also expects them to get a jump on their academics and to spend time going over Clemson film.
“Every day, they need to spend at least 30 minutes watching something on Clemson,” he said.