The Michigan State Spartans ranked among the best defenses in college football last season. They ranked No. 4 in total defense, No. 9 in scoring defense, No. 9 in passing defense and No. 8 in rushing defense, making them a stout unit that made life difficult for opposing offenses. One thing they did not do well, however, was create turnovers by forcing fumbles. The Spartans tied for No. 106 out of 120 FBS teams in fumble recoveries last season, and the Michigan State defense is committed to changing that.
During spring practice, Michigan State’s defense is committing to forcing more fumbles in 2013. They are led by their defensive captain, middle linebacker Max Bullough, who led the team in tackles last season with 111, but forced just one fumble all season long.
As a team, the Spartans forced 13 fumbles in 2012 and recovered just six of them. Those missed opportunities could have turned a disappointing 7-6 season into something better. Bullough is determined to not let that same fate take down Sparty in 2013:
“Forcing fumbles has been one of our main focuses on defense. We didn’t have enough of them last year. We had a couple of them we didn’t take advantage of.
“There’s times where it happens or doesn’t happen, based on the kind of season you’re having, the ball bouncing this way or that way. But there’s situations where you can make it happen…
“It’s just making a conscientious decision to make a turnover, and say ‘I’m going to cause a fumble,’ and that’s what we’re working on.”
The MSU middle linebacker says the team has been studying film of NFL fumbles, where players come in and strip ball carriers regularly, looking for tips to make them more proficient at taking the ball away.
Getting turnovers will be even more important next season as the Spartans’ offense is riddled with questions at just about every level. Having the defense not only make stops but give the offense short fields to work with will help build the confidence of a unit that is sorely lacking proven playmakers.
The defense figured to be a major strength for Michigan State already heading into 2013, but the Spartans aren’t satisfied with just making stops. They want to create turnovers and are determined to find ways to get it done this spring.