The Gators struggled mightily to create turnovers last season.
In 13 games, the defense created just 14 turnovers, eight of which were interceptions. During that time, the offense turned the ball over 26 times, with fumbles and interceptions each accounting for half the total.
Florida’s minus-12 turnover margin tied the team for No. 113 in the nation.
Through six games this season, the trend has changed. Florida is currently tied for No. 13 in turnover margin at plus-seven. This season, the Gators have intercepted seven passes and forced four fumbles while fumbling three times and throwing one interception.
With much of the same personnel, particularly on defense, the results have suddenly shifted. More than a coincidence, the Gators have identified better effort as the reason for the differing results this season.
“Guys are trying extra hard, I guess,” Omar Hunter said.
Gators defensive coordinator Dan Quinn disagreed, saying it was more than simply trying harder.
“I wish it was,” he joked. “I would have told them to try harder earlier.”
Quinn, who said he once saw a drastic change in turnovers from one season to the next with similar personnel when he was in the NFL, pointed to the emphasis the team is putting on creating turnovers.
Though coaches have preached the importance of creating turnovers, players have started to buy into the system more in their second year in the system.
The results speak for themselves.
“Although we emphasized it last year, maybe the players to each other are emphasizing it more,” Quinn said. “Maybe that’s a little different voice telling you than the coach. When it comes from a player or another teammate, I think that adds value.
As Florida prepares for South Carolina, the Gators can reflect on the importance turnovers played in last season’s meeting, a 17-12 win for the Gamecocks in Columbia, S.C.
With a sputtering offense, the Gators cost themselves any hope of winning the game by fumbling twice. John Brantley fumbled on the opening possession and though it did not result in points, it set the tone for the day.
Jadeveon Clowney, who has garnered much praise this season, stripped Jeff Demps later in the game, setting up a touchdown for South Carolina, which put the game out of reach.
Florida redeemed one frustrating loss from last season two weeks ago with a 14-6 win against LSU. If the Gators are to atone for their poor showing at South Carolina last season, while fully entrenching themselves in the SEC Eastern Division driver’s seat this season, the Gators will need to win the turnover battle.
Quinn believes his guys have the experience to continue creating turnovers and continue winning games.
“Sometimes it is just experience,” he said. “Now that we know what it looks like, let’s continue to do that.”