Turnovers = wins. That is what the data tells us and that is what Coach Agboke uses to guide everything they teach defensively. Read the report.
By Tunde Agboke
Defensive Coordinator & Assistant Head Coach
SUNY Cortland (NY)
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When I was player, my coaches always use to say, “the ball is the thing, the ball is the thing.” As a player, I understood to an extent what they meant. They were preaching the importance of getting turnovers and possessing the ball. That part was clear, what I didn’t realize at that part of my football career, is there was a subliminal part to his message.
The words themselves are clear. “The ball is thing!” He who possesses the ball possesses the power. There are no rules on the books that say the football belongs to the offense. Every time the ball is snapped, possession is a 50/50 proposition. The moment defensive players come to grips with that general concept, the more likely the defense is to create and secure turnovers.
The subliminal part of the message wasn’t so easy to parse as a player. We heard the message on a daily basis, “the ball is the thing, the ball is the thing.” Looking back now, I realize what they were doing was planting seeds. The more they talked about turnovers, the more we as players would think about turnovers. The more we thought about turnovers, the more likely we were to secure them.
Turnovers aren’t some magical guarantee that you will win the game. We have all been a part of games where we won the turnover margin but lost the game. However, they do give you a better chance to win. As a coach, I’ve taken that same approach. We want turnovers, so we are always going to talk about turnovers. Not just on the field at practice and on game days, but in meetings rooms and anywhere we can. Gaining turnovers requires a whole hearted cultural shift and adoption of that mantra.
Forcing & Recovering Fumbles
In the last two seasons, we have forced a combined 35 fumbles. While this is an impressive stat, it has also been a tricky undertaking. In trying to force fumbles, at times players will sacrifice making the tackle. We have tried to maintain and reiterate the importance of both, since they are not mutual exclusive. When coaching the pursuit of fumbles, we focus on the following three techniques; edge rushers bending, the 2nd man into the tackle stripping, and recovery. Below is game film and drill film as well as coaching points for these techniques.
- 2nd Man In – Once the tackle is secure, the next man to the ball must vigorously attempt to strip at the ball. More times than not the ball carrier is so concerned with the initial tackler he can’t fend off legitimate efforts to strip the ball. We talk to our guys about “Press & Pry” technique. They press their hands deep into the crook of the ball carriers elbow and then prying the ball loose.
- Secure & Strip – Making the tackle and forcing the fumble is a great 2 for 1. We secure the tackle by running through the ball carrier and then perform the press & pry technique.
- Peanut Punch - This is the technique that CB Charles Tillman made popular when he was with the Chicago Bears. We use this technique but make sure our players understand that it is a situational technique. A 1v1 open field tackle is not the time we want our guys attempting the technique. Situations we talk about are when a player is running out of bounce or if a simple tackle won’t help us accomplish goal. For a perfect situational example, see the clip below.
Recovering Fumbles (Secure it!)
- See Ball, Get Ball. We use “ground hog” technique once the ball hits the ground. That technique basically encompasses the player burrowing to the bottom of any pile and then protecting the ball possessively as if it were his acorn. They know priority #1,2,3 is securing the ball. Returning it for yards or a TD is great, but ultimately our job is to secure the ball. We practice reading the bounce of the ball. If it’s a controlled bounce then scope and score it. If its out of control or in a crowd, use ground hog technique.
In our first year, we dropped 17 potential interceptions. We counted potential interceptions as any play where the defender had two hands on the ball and clearly just dropped it. In the last two seasons combined, we have dropped 8 potential interceptions. Obviously in a perfect world that number would be zero, but for now we are continually trying to improve.
You here it all the time after a defensive player drops a ball, “that’s why you play defense.” That statement implies that not being able to catch is a prerequisite to playing defense. We focus on numerous types of ball concentration and catching drills to counter that notion and to simulate all types of game situations. The work has paid off as we have secured 29 interceptions in the last two seasons.
Coaching Points: Catching
- Looking the Ball In – Too often defensive players take their eyes off the ball they are trying to intercept. This is partly because they haven’t been taught and drilled to look the ball in. We do a slow motion drill and then a more advanced speed up version. The drill forces the players to see the ball as they make contact with it and feel it fit in their hands.
- High Point – The average WR/TE is taller and has a longer reach than the average DB/LB. For that reason, it is critical we practice high pointing the ball. Our guys have to be able to go up and get the ball.
- Laying Out – Sometimes guys are going to have to layout to get the INT. If the ball is reachable, then we have to reach it. Running and stretching a hand out won’t get it done. The player has to get used to leaving his feet. We use a crash pad to help the guys get comfortable leaving their feet.
Continue to the full-length version of this report…
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- The four components Coach Agboke uses to teach bending edge rushers to dislodge the ball including burst to the ball, bending and staying tight, dropping the contact shoulder and swatting at the ball.
- The four types of drill work Coach Agboke uses to teach interceptions including looking the ball, high point, catching in traffic and laying out.
- The Fast Pitch Drill used to train defenders hands to be soft enough to catch rope throws.
- The Return Drill Coach Agboke uses to train extra defenders to block on interceptions.
- Why there is no “tipping” in his Tip Drill.
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In the past two seasons, we have secured 56 total turnovers. In that same time frame, we have left eight dropped interceptions and eight unrecovered fumbles on the field. We are not a finished product by any stretch of the imagination, but we have made great strides since our first year in securing turnovers. The goal is to continue to improve that total. All of the drills and techniques we practices are critical to our improvement. That said, the biggest factor is the subliminal factor. We want turnovers, so we talk about turnovers. “The Ball is the Thing!”
Meet Coach Tunde Agboke: Agboke serves as the Defensive Coordinator / Assistant Head Coach at SUNY Cortland (NY). He has coached 24 All-Conference performers in past four seasons. Agboke has also coached on two Conference Championship teams in past four seasons (2015 Empire 8 (SUNY Cortland) and 2013 Pioneer (Marist College)). Prior to Cortland, most recently coached at Marist College, Shippensburg University and William Paterson University. Agboke played collegiately as a safety at the University of Kentucky and as a linebacker at Southeast Missouri State.