Following his weight-training session Tuesday afternoon, a tired Jackson was headed home to shower, eat and watch a video. But this video can't be found at the corner rental store. Call it a highlight tape of Florida State's greatest defensive ends, names such as Jamal Reynolds, Peter Boulware, Andre Wadsworth, and Roland Seymour.
"I watch film all the time," Jackson said. "I watch tape of Jamal, Roland, Peter, Andre and others. I get home and sit in front of that television with my remote, watching their every move. I am trying to take something from all of their games to help mine."
Jackson, one of four returning starters along the defensive line, led the Seminoles last season with five quarterback sacks and ranked second with 16 hurries. He also missed the Virginia and Miami games with a sprained knee. Jackson, a senior from Americus, Ga., enjoyed his best game at Clemson, finishing with two sacks, six tackles and a pass breakup.
Naturally, Jackson is looking to improve his play from last season, especially in the pass-rush department. Jackson and his fellow defensive ends struggled in that area, combining for just 10 sacks - a far cry from the high-popping numbers that players such as Boulware, Wadsworth and Reinard Wilson registered during their FSU careers. Boulware led the nation and set an FSU single-season record with 19 sacks in 1996. For the sake of comparison, the Seminoles finished with 14 total sacks last season.
"Most definitely we have to improve our pass rush," Jackson said.
"We got a thing going right now with me, Jeff (Womble), (Darnell) Dockett, Kevin (Emanuel), Charles (Howard) that, hey, we are going to go out there and make it happen. It's a race to the quarterback right now. Last year we worked more on run-stopping and fundamentals (in practice). This year everyone has experience. We worked on the pass rush probably over 65 percent of the time (during spring drills). Jody (Allen, new defensive ends coach) is really emphasizing pass rush, pass rush, pass rush. This is what we need to do. Jody is giving each person moves to work on. You work on this and this today. We just are working on getting better. He helped me out a great deal."
The lean but muscular 6-4 Jackson, who played last season at 255 pounds, earned honorable mention All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors last season. He finished with 33 tackles, 19 solo, and had eight tackles for loss. Jackson also enjoyed a solid spring, earning the Hinesman Award (most dominant player). He credits Allen, who replaced longtime assistant coach Jim Gladden, for his improved play.
"It was great -- Jody actually helped me more than I thought he would," Jackson admitted. "He helped fine-tune my game as well as a whole lot other guys. I don't even think he knows how much he helped. Fundamentally, mechanics. Technique-wise. Just little things that you can do to make you better, to give you that half-second. That half-second could be the difference between a sack and a touchdown. Getting low, getting leverage, using your hands. He was showing us our steps, showing us exactly how precise they have to be. Make no doubt about it, he works you extremely hard but it pays off. He has a lot of passion for the game."
Jackson has noticed that same passion during the Seminoles' offseason workouts. Jackson has been a regular in the weight room, though he may need surgery on his left wrist to remove a bone chip.
"It has been good," Jackson said. "Everyone is working together more this year and than last. Last year it seemed to be more structured in terms of like when you had to be there. It just seems this year everyone is in there with everyone else. It just seems like we are more of a team. Everybody wants to get better. Everyone is more family compared to a year ago. You could tell that during spring practice."
It goes without saying that Jackson is looking for improvement from the defense, which allowed 26.1 points, punctuated by 49 points from Miami, and 356.4 yards per game last season. FSU also surrendered 23 rushing touchdowns, not to mention allowed a season-high 463 total yards against Clemson. But there was good news, highlighted by consecutive victories over Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech in the Gator Bowl to end the season.
"We want to set a tone," Jackson said. "We got a lot of momentum right now. We have a lot of guys back. We want to go out and set the tone, like we did against Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech. And we had a great spring. Hopefully, it will carry into two-a-days."
Until that time, the good-natured and friendly Jackson plans to keep to his routine, which includes watching plenty of video.
"I watch a lot of myself on tape, too, and what I see is that I could have been a little lower," Jackson said. "Sometimes I might not have used the correct technique, especially with my hand placement. I might have been a second off and just knocked the quarterback down. After I was hurt, I saw that I was favoring my leg a little bit.
"But I really like this team. I've talked to a lot people. I was on the national championship team. I played on it. I was in it. I was there. I remember what that feels like. And I can feel it now. Everyone is so together. So close. It's going to be crazy when it (practice) starts.
"They say through adversity you will see what a real man is made of. After adversity (last year), we came together. A lot of people talked bad about us. A lot of people looked down on us. But we pulled together and we ended the season on a fairly good note. We want to build on that."