Clemson Tigers redshirt senior safety Nolan Turner may have come from a small town outside Birmingham, Ala., to an even smaller town in Upstate South Carolina, but after a shoulder surgery that sidelined him for the spring, he is back and ready help his team return to the national title spotlight.
"Throughout the spring I got to kind of sit back and you know, coach up the young guys and just, you know, be with them in practice and give them tips," Turner told the media Thursday.
While the nation was lamenting the quarantine that the COVID-19 pandemic brought upon the United States, Turner saw it as a blessing in disguise.
"Then, you know, throughout the whole COVID quarantine deal...was really probably the best thing for me," Turner said. "Just give me plenty of time to rehab, you know on my own and, you know, get that strength back."
Turner sometimes gets “overlooked” in the secondary because he didn’t have the media exposure of some athletes coming out of high school and only received one offer to play college football, according to safeties coach Mickey Conn.
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That offer came, not from his late father's, Kevin Turner, alma mater of Alabama, but from Clemson.
“He is a tremendous athlete,” Conn said about Nolan. “I mean, unbelievable athlete. You're talking about a 6-foot-2, 195-pound kid that can run, change direction. I think his hips, his ability to be able to swivel his hips and change direction. His vision is unbelievable, and he has a great understanding of the defense.”
“(I) would like (him to be) a little bit bigger and improve on his tackling a little bit more. But from where he's come from, I think his confidence has just skyrocketed with him being able to get out there and play.”
Turner enters 2020 credited with 124 tackles (5.5 for loss), 14 passes broken up, three interceptions (all in postseason play) returned 24 yards, a sack and a forced fumble in 973 snaps over 43 career games (four starts).
The now senior enters his final season in a Tiger uniform as a veteran of a secondary that looks to replace two starters at safety off last year's squad. But Turner believes that the youth of this year's back four is not a factor.
"As far as leadership goes you know it's been great," Turner said. "These guys are just super bought in. We got a great group of young safeties and DBs. Just super athletic and, you know, there's really bought in and, you know, really bridged the gap of inexperience you know throughout this quarantine with meetings and everything so it's been a good time."