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Miami’s Defense Must Create More Turnovers In 2020

If Miami wants to win more games, the Turnover Chain needs to come out more in 2020

NCAA Football: Miami at Florida State Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

If there has been one thing that has given the Miami Hurricanes national attention the last 3 years, it’s their famous Turnover Chain. During 2017, the season when Miami introduced the Chain, the Canes defense was third in the country in forcing turnovers, 31 in total. Then again in 2018, Miami’s remained one of the best in forcing turnovers with 25.

In 2019 however, the Chain was seen less often, as Miami finished the season with 20 forced turnovers. They ranked 25th in fumbles recovered per game, but also 58th when it came to interceptions per game.

The excitement that used to come when Miami’s defense forced a turnover, it wasn’t there in 2019, like it had been the two previous seasons. In years past, the Turnover Chain gave the entire team a boost of energy, and if Miami was at home, the Chain coming out would send Hard Rock Stadium into a frenzy.

In 2017 for instance, the turnovers the Hurricanes defense forced helped them against teams like Virginia Tech and Notre Dame.

Not only less enthusiasm on the sidelines, the lack of turnovers in 2019 cost Miami wins too. Against the Hokies last year, the defense came away with no turnovers, and lost 42-35.

Same case in the game against North Carolina as well, the inability to force turnovers, especially in the second half, was a factor in Miami losing. In 2018 against the Tar Heels, Miami’s defense came away with 6 turnovers on that night alone, scoring 3 defensive touchdowns.

In 2017, Miami was 8-1 in games where they forced at least 2 turnovers, and in 2018 they went 3-5 when it was less than 2 turnovers. UM is 7-13 over the last 3 years when they fail to force at 2 turnovers and 16-3 when they do. Quite the difference.

Last season, there were 3 games where Miami recorded 0 turnovers, and they went 0-3. In the final 3 games of 2019, the Hurricanes defense had only 2 turnovers in total, as UM lost all those games as well. On the other hand, during the Canes 3-game win streak against Pitt, FSU and Louisville, they forced a combined 8 turnovers.

Now, some of the reasoning behind the lack of creating turnovers in 2019, has to be put on the youth of the secondary last season. In 2018 and 2017, Miami had veterans like Jaquan Johnson, Michael Jackson and Sheldrick Redwine as defensive backs. Last year, with those three gone, the Canes had to rely on Trajan Bandy, and first-time starters like Gurvan Hall Jr. and Al Blades Jr. It also didn’t help that Bubba Bolden was limited to just 5 games.

In 2020, if the Hurricanes want to see more wins, the defense will have to force more turnovers. With Bolden now healthy, I expect him to be a ballhawk at safety, but Hall and Blades, as well as Amari Carter and DJ Ivey, will need to step it up and force their opponents into turning the ball over. All four of these defensive backs have starting experience, so you have to think they’ll be more comfortable, and thus more developed in 2020.

Something that the secondary will count on is the pass rushing of Miami’s front-four, especially defensive ends Jaelan Phillips and Quincy Roche. A big reason why the Hurricanes forced so many turnovers in 2017 and 2018, they were always at or near the top in the country when it came to sacks per game. Not only was the opposing quarterback forced to make ill-advised throws under pressure, but you also had players like Jonathan Garvin and Shaquille Quarterman knocking the ball loose.

Another reason why Miami’s turnover number decreased in 2019, in my opinion, was the play-calling by defensive coordinator Blake Baker. In his first year as DC for UM, It seemed like there were far too many moments where Baker didn’t rush enough, or blitzed too many, and it didn’t fit the personnel of the Miami defense. If the defense is struggling early and not coming up with turnovers, we may see Manny Diaz back calling plays on that side of the ball.

So bottom line, the Turnover Chain must return to being a familiar sight on the sideline, if Miami wants to reach their full potential in 2020.