Stories like Ohio University's defensive back Thad Turner’s are why I love college football so much.
Players have the opportunity to blossom and grow under the development of their position coaches and coordinators.
A prime example of that is Thad Turner, a Marietta, GA native. He came to OU's football program in 2005 as a former first-team all-state wide receiver.
After redshirting in 2005, he played sparingly in 2006, then was switched to cornerback during Dec. 2006.
Head coach, Frank Solich, and defensive coordinator, Jimmy Burrow, tried to convince him to make the switch, saying they needed more speed at the cornerback position. At the time, Turner was skeptical of the switch, but decided to give it a try anyway.
During the 2007 season, Turner struggled mightily at his new position. He was routinely beat in practices by opposing players in drills and struggled to make tackles in the open field. You wouldn’t have been blamed if you thought Turner should have stayed on offense after all.
Then, in the 2008 season the light came on. The Marietta native made his coaches look brilliant, posting a season that made him the most improved player on the entire Ohio football roster.
Statistically, it might not have been the greatest year, but he did lead the team in one of the most important categories for a defensive back—pass breakups—with six.
Better yet, he had his best performance of the season against the third-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus, Ohio.
Turner played like a man-possessed, making plays all over the football field for the Bobcats. He notched seven tackles and three pass breakups (unofficial) in that game, making life miserable for Ohio State receiver Brian Robiskie and company.
The Bobcats nearly pulled off one of the biggest upsets in college football history, but eventually fell to the third-ranked Buckeyes 26-14.
His spectacular performance against Ohio State was just the tip of the iceberg. He also had a huge game against the Northwestern Wildcats in Evanston, IL.
The redshirt junior posted five tackles, recovered a fumble, and had two pass breakups! It was yet another impressive performance by Turner and yet another indication that coaches made the right move after all.
If you watch his highlight video of one on one drills on YouTube—you’ll see that Turner is no longer getting pushed around by opposing players. He’s much more physical at the line of scrimmage and he’s excellent at re-routing receivers and not allowing them to have the inside release.
Standing at 5'11", 179 lbs. Turner refuses to get outmuscled and plays much bigger than his size. His physicality combined with his speed (4.43 40 yard dash) will likely make him an attractive prospect for NFL scouts for the 2010 NFL Draft. If he keeps improving at the rate he has, the possibilities are endless for Turner.
Spring ball begins on Monday, Mar. 30, for the Bobcats.
Luckily, I had the chance to interview him in a Q and A session through e-mail about a variety of topics—ranging from his improvement on the gridiron to his philosophy on women. Below is the interview and I hope you enjoy it!
Q: You had a spectacular season last year and were one of Ohio's most improved
players on the gridiron. What made the difference?
A:I think it was just a matter of time. I never doubted that I was a good player and I knew that I would have a good year whether I was playing wide receiver or cornerback. It has been a rough road because one of the big reasons I committed to OU was a promise I would play early. Unfortunately, my performance was delayed due to early injuries and a position change. But I never lost my faith in my skills. It was only a matter of time for it to all come together.
Q: Your position coach is cornerbacks Coach David Brown. Would you like to tell us about your relationship with him?
A: Coach Brown is a great coach. I thought that we were gonna lose him to the
N.F.L. but luckily we were able to keep him at least through my last year. But what makes Coach Brown so good is he always looks for ways to make our cornerback group better in ways where we can be game changers. He is cool and very relaxed which is a good change in coaching.
Q: Who is your favorite football player of all-time and why?
A: Barry Sanders. In Pop Warner football I played running back and looking at him on Sundays was an absolute thrill. I thought he was untouchable. I hated to see him retire early.
Q: Are there any players out there that you try and model your game after? How so?
A: Of course Deion Sanders, he was a play-maker and was truly feared. Also Ed Reed, he is a ball hog and always seems to score. I love exciting players and how they entertain the crowd by making plays with a loud personality that backs it up. That is totally up my alley. Lastly Ray Lewis, I love hearing him on TV while he plays. If I played with him I know my intensity would be elevated so much more.
Q: You were a receiver in high school. What was the toughest part of the
transition from the offensive side of the ball to the defensive side of the ball?
A: Not getting the ball as much. I like the feeling with the ball in my hands and
having the opportunity to score. I guess I need to create more turnovers.
Q: You were simply dialed in during the Ohio State game last fall--a spectacular performance where it seemed like you could do no wrong. You only got beat on one play that I could recall, but the receiver dropped the ball. Was that one of those moments where you were "in the zone"?
A: I was ready for that game years in advance so I was so pumped out. I was in a zone and my intensity level was at an all-time high. Actually I learned a lot about how I can perform at my greatest. I learned that I play better when I am almost obnoxiously intense, but it helps me stay focused and play hard.
Q: You're from Georgia. You've grown up around that southern home cookin'. What's your favorite food to eat?
A: My dad makes the best ribs and steak ever. I’m going to get a grill this summer and learn all the secrets.
Q: You have some rather hilarious takes on women on Facebook. Could you discuss your philosophies about women with me?
A: I have read somewhere that 90% of marriages in the N.F.L. fail in the first year. So I feel that since I’ve had a dream of going to the N.F.L. since I was a little boy why should I split my rewards in half within a year. So if I do find that special person they will be signing a prenuptial agreement. This is all being said, if god willing, I’m lucky enough to make it to the N.F.L.
Q: Imagine that you are the general manager of the Detroit Lions. Who do you take in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft and why?
A: The quarterback position means so much to a team. I like the way Matthew Stafford(Georgia) plays. If he has a rookie year like Matt Ryan(Atlanta Falcons) that would be phenomenal. But I also have a problem putting so much pressure on a rookie QB. You can always pick up a quality quarterback through free agency every year. Last year it was Brett Favre, this year it could be Garcia or even the most exciting QB to date, Michael Vick.
Q: What qualities do you think make for the best offensive and defensive coordinators in college football?
A: I think that attention to detail is very important. I really like University of Texas defensive coordinator, Will Muschamp. He is so intense and gets his players in a position to make a play.
Q: Have you heard about any NFL scouts or teams buzzing about your performance last season?
A: There is some buzz. I just want to have a great season this year and hopefully
I will be blessed with the opportunity to make it to the NFL.
Q: Lastly, after football is done, what do you plan to do with your life? Give me a detailed description if you could.
A: I think it is important to do what I love. I love football so I want to be a college football coach. I’ve always had a dream to take a small historical black college and build it up to win a national championship.