They come from all directions – east, west, north and south. They all hit the offensive player hard, and in some cases one guy will hold a player up, while the other tries to rip the ball out of his hands.
This is how seventh-ranked Miami creates turnovers and with each one they create, not only do they get to wear the now famous “Turnover Chain,” but more importantly, they steal a possession away from the opponent and steal momentum in the process.
This is what No. 1 Clemson will try to avoid when the Tigers play Miami in Saturday’s ACC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.
“It seems like every game I watch of them, they create turnovers,” Clemson wide receiver Hunter Renfrow said.
Miami has actually created 29 turnovers, which ranks third in the country and leads the ACC. The Hurricanes (10-1) have created 21 of their 29 turnovers over the last six games of the season, including an NCAA record of four straight games in which they forced four turnovers in every game.
In 10 of their 11 games this year, the Hurricanes have won the turnover battle. Their record in those 10 games they’ve won is 9-1.
“They have that turnover chain. It is the same thing with Alabama last year,” Renfrow said. “I think in the national championship, they were kind of known for their (non-offensive touchdowns) and I think Miami is known for their turnovers so we just have to do a good job of protecting the ball and not play outside of ourselves.”
To do that the Tigers will just continue to do what they have always done … continue to emphasis turnovers in practice. This year, it has really gotten through.
Clemson has turned the ball over just 13 times this season, way down from 2016 when it had 28 overall.
Co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott says one reason for the improvement in 2017 is the fact the coaches are consistent with their messages.
“If we did not talk about ball security all year long and then we got to this game and then made a real big deal about it, that’s not what you want to do,” Scott said. “The biggest thing is we show guys examples.
“I think the end of the NC State-Wake Forest game, I think the receiver was going for an easy touchdown and reached the ball over when he did not have to and Wake Forest knocks the ball out. That is a teachable moment. If you can learn from other people’s mistakes then it will hopefully help you prevent some. We look for that.”
They also have a special theme on Tuesday when they put on the pads. Tuesday is known as TANGA Tuesday, which stands for Takeaway And No Give Away.
“At the very beginning of our team meeting each Tuesday, Coach (Dab) Swinney has a video put together for our defense for any turnovers hey caused in our last game and also other turnovers in some of the NFL games or by the opponent we are getting ready to play,” Scott said. “They turnaround and also show a bunch of pictures of great ball security. We’re just trying to get those guys a visual picture of that and coaching it really. That is what we do. We really coach it.”
In practice, the defensive players try to strip the ball, especially when its good-on-good. In flex, when the team is stretching before practice, the coaches give all the skill players a ball to hold to, and then come along and try to knock it out when the player is not paying attention.
They also go back, track and chart balls in jeopardy (BIJ) from games and practices and use them as coachable moments.
“You put a little more emphasis on it in practice,” Renfrow said. “You think about those times when the ball might be in jeopardy so if you are cutting back and you want to make a move, you just kind instinctively think, ‘alright let’s cover the ball up here.’”
It has worked out pretty well so far. In Clemson’s four biggest road games—at Louisville, at Virginia Tech, at NC State and at South Carolina—in which it played a ranked opponent in every game, the Tigers turned the football over a combined three times in those four games.
“That is the mindset that our guys have,” Scott said. “Regardless if anything else happens in the game. That has been one of the things that we live by and has been part of the process of winning.
“Our guys have bought into that and we have done a good job of that at times, but there have been other times where the ball has gotten away from us. It has been a focus every day to win.”