Spring Focused on Turnover Margin

The coaching style on defense didn't change, but the results did. When he was at Texas, current Florida head coach Will Muschamp coached creating turnovers the same way that he did in Gainesville during 2011. The Longhorns led the country in turnovers created under Muschamp in 2009. In his first year at Florida, the Gators were 113th in the country in turnover margin.

The Florida coaches went to work in the offseason trying to find ways to fix it.

"Dan (Quinn) talks about it with our defense every single day," Will Muschamp said. "We've got to find different ways to emphasize it. If you do the same things, you're going to get the same results.

"It's really a minor miracle we won seven games. You can't win games turning it over and not getting turnovers."

The turnover margin for Florida was -12 last season. The Gators created just 14 turnovers in 13 games last season. With an offense that sputtered through the 2011 season and will have a new quarterback and running back in 2012, Florida has to create more turnovers to try setting up a short field.

To correct the issue, the Florida coaches hit the phones.

Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said he called around to multiple teams to see how they were coaching turnovers and find out new ways for the Florida staff to teach it. Quinn spent time on the phone with coaches from the San Francisco 49ers, who led the NFL with a +28 turnover ratio last season.

"I got clips from really good TV copies of examples that were shown into practice," Quinn said. "We're given a points system for how we're doing for each forced fumble, each interception, each takeaway, and we use the term ball hawk, and those are guys that can get a rip or a strip, a batted ball or an interception."

Quinn pointed to two types of turnovers. There are ‘conscious effort' ones where the defender strips the ball or forces a fumble with a big hit. Then, there are the ‘unconscious effort' turnovers. Quinn pointed to these coming from an overthrown ball for an interception or a turnover where some luck is involved.

"We've got to do a much better job of the conscious effort, making a big emphasis on taking the ball away," Quinn said. "It's something that we address a lot.

"We call them rips, strips, bats and picks, so it's kind of a culmination of things. It's awareness for the players. If you can do the same thing you'll get the same results. So we're going to challenge, do some different drills for it, and we're going to improve in that area."

Another part of the lack of turnovers comes from the defensive backs. Muschamp said the Gators dropped 15 interceptions last season.

The Florida defensive backs combined for just six interceptions in 2011. This spring will be devoted to changing that.

"We're going to do more ball drills," Muschamp said. "We're going to do some things that we've got to do to get the ball in position for our offense and let Brent and the guys have a chance. That's a huge point of emphasis."

Some of the improvement in turnovers could just be natural. The defense returns most starts and depth from last season, so the natural improvement could come from a second year in Muschamp and Quinn's defense.

It's possible that last year's defense played tentative because they didn't want to miss their assignment or get out of position on plays. Instead of just playing and letting their instincts take over, young players can overthink and force them to play slow.

Quinn agreed that could be part of it.

"It's all-encompassing," Quinn said. "It's part of our program. It's how we do our business here on defense, so it has to be part of what we do well. I think there's some things on defense that we do do well, and that this year was not one of them.

"So that to me has been a huge emphasis going into this spring, and I'm looking forward to seeing that tide turn to where we're playing good, solid, technical, fundamental, hard-nosed football, and we're taking the ball away.

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