Miami vows return of turnover chain (and fierce defense) in 2018

MIAMI -- Wisconsin safety Joe Ferguson said his team has talked at length about finding an appropriate version of Miami's famed turnover chain for the Badgers. He suggested a cane, for a bit of class, or perhaps an over-the-shoulder fur coat, similar to what Jon Snow wears on "Game of Thrones."

"We're up north, so it makes sense," Ferguson joked.

The truth, however, is there's no topping the chain. Imitators are always left wanting. And in a season in which Miami reached highs it hadn't enjoyed in more than a decade, the chain took on a life of its own, so much so that even its opponent in the Capital One Orange Bowl had to spend much of the run-up to the game talking about it. After 10 wins and a Coastal Division title for Miami, the talk is still about the bling.

Miami receiver Braxton Berrios said he hoped to exploit the special-teams loophole, so he might wear the chain, too.

Linebacker Shaq Quarterman bemoaned that he has worn it only once this year, but he aimed to add to that total against Wisconsin.

Coach Mark Richt said he still hasn't touched the chain, admitting it's "a little gaudy."

But the bigger question, perhaps, is what becomes of the chain after the game is over?

"It's definitely going to survive to next year," cornerback Malek Young said. "It's big momentum. It'll be around."

Defensive coordinator and turnover chain architect Manny Diaz confirmed the return of the chain this week, but that's just the start of Miami's focus on 2018.

Yes, there's still a game to play, and the Hurricanes insist that defending their home turf against Wisconsin is a big deal, but it's not hard to get them talking about next season either.

The No. 2 ranking? The losses to Pitt and Clemson? The chain? It's all prelude.

"It's knowing what we have to do to get to the next step," Quarterman said. "I think the losses we took, they were crushing, but in the end, it was a lesson. It gave us a lot to reflect on. Everybody's chomping at the bit to get to next season."

Quarterman, as much as anyone on this Miami defense, has embraced Miami's history, and he said the turnover chain and the defensive success in 2017 helped re-establish that legacy. But the focus now is building on it.

The Canes rank 16th in ESPN's adjusted defensive efficiency, 17th in scoring defense, 12th in yards-per-play allowed.

What really has set Miami apart, however, is the chain.

Miami wrapped the regular season with 30 takeaways, tops among Power 5 defenses and second nationally. And while that success was more about the talent on D than the chain, the bling also helped create a mythology that the team and much of the nation bought into in 2017. And for a program that has been talking about regaining its old-school swagger for years, that mythology meant something.

"It's Miami football," Quarterman said. "We make plays and we celebrate. That's how we celebrate."

Richt said Friday that those celebrations were so loud at home that he'd have to shift to a nonverbal cadence to get plays in to his offense after a turnover. Even after the crowd noise died down, the stadium operations folks would show a player wearing the chain on the video board and the crowd would erupt all over again.

"It's sort of like a party on the sideline as soon as the chain comes out," safety Jaquan Johnson said.

So how could Miami possibly part ways with that?

Whether the success and the takeaways return, too, is what nags at Miami, however. The 2017 season was a big step forward, but that's all it was, Quarterman said. One step has to be followed by another, and the chain isn't going to get Miami over that hump.

"We just understand that there's another step," he said. "We know we have what it takes to get to the show, now we need to make an impact on the show."