By Tunde Agboke
Defensive Coordinator & Assistant Head Coach
SUNY Cortland (NY)
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.
Bending Edge Rushers – Burst, Bend, Stay Tight, Drop, & Swat
To study film of this, click on the video below: