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August 14, 2013Nothing can change the course of a game quite like a turnover.
And when a defense is racking them up, it can mean the world for that team's chances at a great season.
Last year, the top 10 teams in turnover margin compiled an incredible 101-30 record, and three of them went to a BCS bowl game.
On the flip side, the teams with the 10 worst turnover margins went a combined 24-96. None of them won more than five games or went to a bowl.
In 2012, the Wolverines tallied just seven interceptions and 12 forced fumbles. The secondary was responsible for five of the picks and three of the forced fumbles.
That is simply not enough. Sure, the Michigan offense has to do a better job of protecting the ball, but the defense is making turnovers a mission for 2013.
"We have put a big emphasis on them," Mallory said. "We have kept track of any turnovers that we have gotten in practice. We have a big board in the meeting room, and we're tracking interceptions, fumbles, everything. And they all take pride in that. If they feel like they had one, they'll say, 'Coach, you missed one!' They're arguing and competing about it, saying, 'He dropped an interception, so does that mean you're taking one off?' They're taking pride in it. They want to have the most."
It has been one of the biggest areas of focus this offseason.
"Interceptions, stripping the ball, safeties and nickels coming off blitzes and getting to the quarterback - we're focusing on creating as many turnovers as we can, any way we can," Countess said.
Since the Wolverines reported to camp at the beginning of August, Mallory has brought a football to every secondary team meeting.
When each player walks into the film room, he has to try to strip it out of Mallory's hands.
"We have to smack the ball, try to knock it out," Clark said. "We have to get the ball back to the offense."
In the pass game, creating turnovers requires a level of timing, experience and finesse that Mallory is beginning to see from his players.
"When you get comfortable back there, you're not so locked in on a man," Mallory explained. "You're able to relate to the man and still see the ball thrown. We have to do a better job of that, breaking on the ball and not getting so tunnel-visioned on the man.
"You have to play with your eyes. If you're playing man, you want drive the man first and then look for the ball. If you're in zone, you want to break on the quarterback. We're working hard to improve on that, because we have to do a better job [at creating turnovers] than we did last year."