When Christian Turner busted through the first level, broke a VMI tackle and somehow found his way into the end zone for a 35-yard score, it was the beginning of a career night. The redshirt junior registered his first 100-yard game, hitting the century mark exactly, while adding two touchdowns on just 13 carries. This morning, he expressed pride in his performance, but a desire to move forward quickly.
“It was a great experience,” Turner said. “I'm happy that I finally was able to get to 100 yards.”
If you take away Turner’s touchdown scamper, he still averaged over five yards per carry. But he doesn’t care about the numbers. There are bigger things to think about than that.
“Right now, it's time to put [the stats] aside and focus on the next game,” Turner continued. “It’s really more about trusting the process. It’s about buying in.”
The process the redshirt junior mentioned is that of the Wake Forest running back room, where there is no true No. 1. The Deacons run by committee. According to head coach Dave Clawson, one game does not change that approach.
“All [Turner’s performance] does is reinforce that both those guys deserve to start,” Clawson said in his Vanderbilt press conference, referring to Turner and co-starter Justice Ellison. “We have two starting tailbacks. They’re going to continue to alternate. In a certain game, if one guy gets the hot hand, we may give him the ball a little bit more like we’ve done in the past.”
This committee approach is nothing new for Wake Forest. Last season, the No. 1 spot was shared by Ellison, Turner and Christian Beal-Smith, who transferred to South Carolina in the offseason. The year before it was Beal-Smith and Kenneth Walker III, who left to have a sensational year at Michigan State and now plays for the Seahawks.
During their time with the Deacons, neither Beal-Smith nor Walker were able to buck the trend of the committee. For Turner, though, splitting the No. 1 role with his teammates suits him well. He and Ellison both carried the ball 13 times last week.
“It’s right where I want to be,” Turner said. “The whole running back room is capable of playing. That makes us push each other and compete every week. Last year, I was pushed by Justice to learn and execute different aspects of the game. Even [sophomore] Quinton Cooley taught me certain things. Our running back room is super close.”
“The emphasis in the running back room and the rest of the team is to stay ready so you don't have to get ready,” Turner continued, speaking on the importance of depth. “Cooley knows at some point during the season we're gonna need him. He's going to be a really good player for us. I can rely on the other running backs and they can rely on me.”
Turner’s expectations don’t stop at Cooley, though. He has belief in everyone in the room, all the way down to freshmen Demond Claiborne and Tate Carney.
“They’re doing well,” Turner said. “They’re going to be really special talents for us here. Demond is one of the fastest backs we have on the team. Tate, he’s super smart. He picks up on things quickly. He knows what he's doing on his assignments.”
Despite the successes of Week 1, Turner is ready to move on. With the self-described capable running back squad behind him and Ellison, there is still work to be done.
“After the game, we looked at our strengths and weaknesses,” Turner said. “There are things we can fix that will make us a better team week by week. We’re 1-0 this season and it’s time to go 1-0 against Vandy. We’ll make our corrections and keep going from there.”