Turnovers come in two forms. Fumbles and interceptions. Cincinnati forced few of either in 2010. Throughout camp and now continuing into game week UC coaches have harped relentlessly on creating more turnovers.
"That is one thing that coach has harped on a lot this camp is strip attempts," said safety Wesley Richardson.
For the defense "Turnovers" is listed second amongst the Big 3. Each game week Cincinnati coaches determine which three aspects of the game deserve extra focus and attention.
Tackling, turnovers, and together compose this week's alliterative Big 3.
"We have made it a real emphasis," said Associate Head Coach Kerry Coombs. "I think every day, every practice we are talking about it. It is part of the Big 3 this week."
In 2010 Cincinnati snatched just eight passes from opposing quarterbacks. Safeties Drew Frey and Wesley Richardson led the way with two.
Cornerbacks Reuben Johnson and Camerron Cheatham picked off one. Linebacker Schaffer pulled down one interception. So did Pat Lambert.
Just two interceptions would be a feeble leading number in 2011. Which defender will post the highest interception figure?
"We have a strong competition there with that," said Richardson. "I say myself. I have a number in my head that I am going to keep in my head. With that number I am going to say myself."
One promising statistic UC has going for them is a five-game interception streak extending back to October 30th (Syracuse).
"You like to think that your safeties are typically in a position to make the most picks," said DB Coach Kerry Coombs. "Corners are oftentimes isolated or in a man situation. Safeties have better vision for the field. Drew and Wes got a couple each last year. I know they are eager to raise their numbers."
Coach Coombs would not give a singular endorsement though. He even suggested Schaffer could lead the Bearcats in picks.
Interestingly, Schaffer has the most career interceptions amongst active UC players. He hauled in three in 2009 and one in 2010. Entering his third season Frey also has four.
Knocking down passes, catching passes, disrupting routes continue to be keys. For the front six fumble creation is on the mind.
Hungry for the prize
Fumbles do so much for a team. They instantly flip the field. A fumble generally follows a large, powerful hit which tend to incite celebrations. It also tends to give the offense good field position to work with.
Cincinnati just does not cause many fumbles. In 2009 only three fumbles were recovered by the defense. In 2010 just six.
"We practice that everyday," said Schaffer. "It is mostly comes with team defense. The first guy there has to secure the tackle. The second and third guy usually causes the fumble. They come up and they try to rip the ball out. That is what we have been working on."
Like Schaffer, safety Wesley Richardson gets to see the play develop right in front of him.
"Turnovers are created by everybody running to the ball, creating what we call 'cat piles,'" said Richardson. "That is eleven hats on the ball. When one guy has him held up we are just trying to get as many strip attempts as possible."
Searching for incentives Cincinnati coaches arrived at a delicious location.
"We have been trying to work on turnovers," said Coach Coombs. "The staff tried to think of things to do combining with the strip. So the staff came up with the strip steak. So the guy who has the most strip attempts in camp will get a strip steak dinner while the rest of the team is eating whatever they are eating."
Food means a lot to men. Especially men who burn calories at the startling rate of football players. In the past men married women best able to satiate their hunger.
Midway through practice Tuesday Chris Williams rushed off the field touting his strong performance.
"I just got three strip attempts," said Williams. "I am going to get that steak."
He repeated his accomplishment to several more teammates.
Of course people will work hard to attain this prize. Beyond the camp struggle for steak UC coaches clearly want to develop good, lasting habits.
Will this be enough? Days from now the answer will begin to unravel.