A can’t-miss-it addition was made this week outside the door of the defensive team meeting room at South Carolina’s operations building: A football attached to a spring bolted to the wall.
The same contraption has been in places around the building before, and it’s a reminder to players that the Gamecocks want to dominate one category among all others: Turnovers.
“Every time you go by there you snatch that ball out,” South Carolina defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson said. “We want our guys constantly thinking about the football. That’s what we hang our hat on. When we look at our plans to win, the ball is the most important thing in this building. Coach [Will] Muschamp mentions it every single day. Everyone in every meeting mentions it every single day. It’s about the ball.
“It’s about protecting it on offense and going to get it on defense.”
South Carolina forced 16 turnovers last season (10 forced fumbles, six interceptions), a number that tied for ninth in the SEC. The team’s turnover margin (minus-5), ranked 101st in the country. In 2017 the Gamecocks finished 13th (plus-11), and in 2016 finished 24th (plus-seven).
“It’s a work in progress. We’re working on it,” Gamecock defensive lineman D.J. Wonnum said. “We’ve got to think about the ball more. Once we think about it, it will come out more. We’re emphasizing that each practice.”
The Gamecocks want to force three turnovers in team drills (11-on-11) every practice, whether that’s forced fumbles or interceptions.
“We definitely can get better in that aspect. We haven’t reached that goal a lot,” cornerback Jaycee Horn said. “We’re still working on it.
“Jake [Bentley]’s making better decisions with the ball this year. … Jake’s taking care of the ball real well. And not only him, the offense as a whole. We’re going to keep working and playing ball.”
“Probably not as pleased as we want to be,” Robinson said. “You look at the scrimmages, I think the two big scrimmages we had, I think we only had one or two turnovers, so that’s not what we want.
“…We’ve got to do a better job at causing and forcing some turnovers to do what we need to do.”