Gators punishing violators

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- They call them violators.

That's the term Florida's coaches and players use for players who don't secure the football when they're carrying it. Don't hold it high and tight? A violator. Hold the ball away from their body? A violator. Don't hold it with two hands in traffic? A violator.

And the Gators are making violators pay. A lot.

Florida has already forced nine fumbles this season. The Gators have recovered seven, including three in last Saturday's victory over South Carolina. Why have they been so successful this season? Because they're watching film to find violators who don't secure the ball, and they're going after those players on Saturdays.

"Coach [Dan] Quinn brought that word around and it hung with us ever since," CB Loucheiz Purifoy said. "A violator is someone who is going to lose the ball, regardless. If you've got the tip of the ball down, you’re a violator. If we can get it out, that’s what you call violator. I’m sure South Carolina heard that a lot [last] weekend."

Purifoy said QB Connor Shaw was the Gamecocks' No. 1 violator on film, which is why he went for the ball when he hit Shaw on a blitz on the game's first play. The ball popped loose and the Gators recovered on the South Carolina 1-yard line. Another noticeable violator on film? WR Ace Sanders. Trey Burton got him, too, forcing a fumble on a punt return.

Florida practices stripping the ball and holding onto the ball. The DBs, especially, will take swipes at the ball when the Gators' receivers and running backs are running around at practice. If it's an open-field situation, UF coach Will Muschamp just wants the tackler to get the ball carrier down. But if it's in a confined area where there's several other defenders close by, Muschamp wants the first tackler to hold the ball carrier up while the second and third tacklers try to strip the ball.

"They got that ball, that's ours," DE Dominique Easley said. "They got that ball hanging out. Violators are someone who don't know how to carry the ball correctly. We're going to get it from them.

"We see that ball, see a little bit of that pigskin, we're coming to get it."

That has helped Florida's offense, too. The Gators have turned the ball over only four times, three on fumbles.

"You hear it a lot out there at practice, 'Hold the ball high and tight, don’t hold it down low, we’re going to strip you. You’ll become a violator,' " Purifoy said. "I don’t think they want to be in that category."

Purifoy said the Gators have already identified several Georgia players as violators, notably Bulldogs RBs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. Georgia has fumbled 10 times this season but has lost only five.

"We just try to make our guys cognizant of how certain carriers carry the ball," Muschamp said. "We look for guys that have the tip down low, the hand below the elbow in a lot of situations. They don't have it high and tight. We talked to our guys and identified guys who don't take care of the football. When you have those opportunities we ask those guys to go for the strips."

After all, violators must be punished.