Quinn committed to creating ball-hawking defense

Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has again made creating turnovers a priority in spring practice after a disappointing season that saw only 14 turnovers forced. (Photo courtesy of UF Communications)

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 6:43 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 6:43 p.m.

Dan Quinn is obsessed with turnovers. He needs them. He has to have them. He can't live without them.

His Florida defense didn't get enough of them last season, so the obsession continues.

He won't let it go. He can't.

A former NFL defensive line coach, the second-year UF defensive coordinator spent a great deal of time this winter studying how some of the best defenses in pro football produced turnovers last season. He's passed those lessons along to his defensive players.

“It was important for me to call some other (NFL) clubs and say, ‘What are some things you're doing that you guys played so well to get that ball away?' ” Quinn said. “I talked to the guys at San Francisco; they had a terrific turnover margin, so it was important for me to reach out — ‘Are you guys doing anything different?'

“I got clips from good TV copies of examples (and I've shown them to our players).”

Quinn's obsession with creating turnovers isn't new. Last spring, during Will Muschamp's high school coaches' clinic, Quinn did a lengthy presentation on how to strip balls and produce turnovers, using tapes from NFL games as examples.

He made it clear that one of his biggest goals going into last season was producing a bunch of potentially game-changing turnovers.

But despite the emphasis, the Gators came up almost empty.

The UF defense produced just 14 turnovers (eight interceptions and six fumbles) in 13 games, the fewest in a season since the school started compiling fumble statistics in 1950.

The Gators ranked 113th nationally in turnover margin (minus-12).

Unacceptable, Quinn says.

So, the Gators are back working on forcing turnovers this spring.

“We're giving 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 said. “It's awareness for the players.

“I've emphasized it. So, we're going to challenge, do some different drills for it, and we're going to improve in that area.”

Maybe it's starting to happen this spring.

In the two practices that were open to the public last weekend, the defense came up with numerous turnovers (fumbles and interceptions), including three interceptions by junior cornerback Jaylen Watkins over the two days.

“We've emphasized it as far as trying to get strips on the ball,” Watkins said. “When you watch film, all you see is guys trying to rip the ball out. That was our biggest problem last year. I don't think we ever had a year that low in turnovers.

“During practices, you get shirts, little prizes that make you want to get a turnover. And it's just the style of defense we want to stand for. We watched plays from last year and it was kind of disappointing, balls hitting us right in the hands and just dropping it. How it was just seeing it for ourselves.”

Muschamp recently said the Gators dropped 15 potential interceptions last season. Six of those drops were credited to outside linebacker Jelani Jenkins, who could have turned at least two of those into pick sixes.

This spring, Jenkins is spending a lot of time catching balls from the Jugs machine at practice, said his roommate, senior safety Josh Evans.

“We always joke around with it (Jenkins' drops last season),” Evans said. “He's out there on the Jugs a lot. Hopefully, he can catch the six drops he had last year.

“He wasn't a big Jugs guy (last season). Now, he's taking it real serious.”

It's all about the obsession. The obsession with turnovers.

“The biggest thing Coach Quinn is hitting on is getting turnovers,” Evans said. “He's been coaching it real well and we've been coming up with some turnovers.

“Look at our numbers last year. Turnovers were not very good. One thing we're looking forward to is creating turnovers.”

Quinn needs them. He has to have them.

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or andreur@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top