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Michigan defensive backs coach and co-defensive coordinator Steve Clinkscale isn’t hard to get riled up. Just talk about defense.

And if you really want to get him going, ask about turnovers.

“When they get the opportunity (to get a turnover) in the game, a lot of times it’s about tips and overthrows — it’s about effort and hustle,” Clinkscale said. “… It’s football, man, it’s defense. It’s not rocket science. Play your ass off. Play hard. Be physical. Find the ball, go make a play.

“Sorry, I got a little worked up. I’m a defensive guy.”

It’s not just that Clinkscale is defensive. He’s passionate about his defensive backs and his defense — when he believes something is the key to getting better, he’s going to hammer it until it sticks.

And he’s made it clear how he feels about turnovers and their importance since fall camp.

“Do I like (pass breakups) and contested balls? Yes,” Clinkscale said Aug. 30. “Do I love them? No, I love interceptions.”

He’s been preaching their importance to the media for months, and certainly to his players for longer than that. And the improvement from a season ago is apparent. His defense has forced five interceptions already this year, after notching just eight over the course of all 14 games last season.

It takes a renewed sense of emphasis on big play creation, but it’s on the players. The Wolverines’ defensive backs have taken a step up this season, with players like graduate Gemon Green, senior DJ Turner,  junior R.J. Moten and sophomore Rod Moore all taking a step forward. For example Moore, in just his second year, currently leads the team in takeaways with three picks, including a game-sealer Saturday.

But Moore, like Clinkscale, still doesn’t feel like it’s enough.

“I had about two other chances (Saturday) I could’ve had an interception,” Moore said Monday. “I just kept telling myself I had to get one before this game was over. And that play came, and when I was baiting the quarterback and I looked over, the ball was coming, I was like, ‘Oh yeah, there it is.’ And it just fell straight into my arms.”

Just one pick in three chances isn’t close to perfect.

And the defensive backs room, perhaps more than any other room due to the nature of the position, expects perfection. If they don’t get it, there are no excuses — no matter what.

“There’s no such thing as push off,” Clinkscale said in response to a question about Michigan State receiver Keon Coleman’s touchdown Saturday. “We got to find the ball. We got to squeeze him to the sideline. … There’s a lot of things we can do. … You don’t get held. You don’t get pushed off. That’s not an excuse. … I’ve been coaching DBs 22 years. I see that every day. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen it called. So we’ve got to understand the technique, what the coach is teaching, and they’ve got to execute it. I don’t give them excuses.”

No excuses. It’s Clinkscale’s mantra, and it’s become the Michigan defense’s philosophy. That includes turnovers, that includes pass break ups and that includes immersing themselves in the type of play they want to emulate.

That means watching NFL film and turnover drills ad nauseam. And Clinkscale makes sure it’s all more “realistic,” so come gameday, the Wolverines are ready to put it all together. Because, as the defensive backs coach knows, everyone has to be ready. 

“The biggest thing I want our guys to always understand is always expect the ball,” Clinkscale said. “Always expect to make the tackle. Always expect to be the guy they’re throwing the ball at. If you do that, you’ll always be in the right position.”

Right now, Michigan’s defensive backs still aren’t completely in that headspace. They miss on opportunities, they get beat by some 50-50 balls and they’re far from perfect. That’s why Clinkscale gives them no excuses.

That’s how he thinks they’ll get better, and how they’ll rise to the level the Wolverines need them to be at to achieve their goals.

“They’re still young, a lot of these guys are young — a lot of them out there — and we want those guys (to) continue to just be hungry and grow every week,” Clinkscale said. “Because we’ve got to continue to get better each battle so we can win our war, which is trying to be national champions.”