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Nolan Turner

RS Sophomore, Safety, 2016 Commit

6’2″/ 208

The Kraken: 3-Stars

Rivals: High 2-Stars, 247: NR, ESPN: NR

Recruited by Dabo Swinney, Marion Hobby

2017: 3rd String Safety, 44 Snaps, 11 Tackles, 1.0 TFL, 1.0 Sacks

8/16/18 – Nolan Turner is the son of former Alabama and Philadelphia Eagles player, Kevin Turner. Nolan’s Dad started 39 games at Alabama and was a pass-catching FB in the NFL. Kevin Turner and Dabo were friends and former teammates at Alabama. Kevin passed away from Lou Gehrig’s disease in March of 2016 and was the lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit against the NFL for misleading players about the dangers of concussions. It’s a very sad story for Nolan, but before Kevin passed, Dabo offered Nolan and gave him his only Power 5 offer.

I was impressed with Turner’s instincts, range, and physicality on his HS film. I was surprised that he didn’t even receive a ranking from 247 and ESPN. His skills and athleticism, combined with the fact that he is an NFL player’s son, certainly made it seem like he would. Turner redshirted as a true freshman and we got to see him for the first time in the spring game last year.

The attributes he showed on his high school film were confirmed in that game. He made several physical tackles and made quick reads on bubble screens.  He stuffed Powell on those a couple times. They tried to sneak Chase by him on a double move right after that and Turner was not only in position, but he picked off the pass and returned it 24 yards. I worry about safeties that come off the hash quickly and get downhill, but the instincts he showed on that play were very encouraging.

During the season, he played some garbage time reps and did well. I was excited to see if he could land a backup safety spot in the spring. Of course, we had depth issues at safety heading into the spring which created a great opportunity for Turner. However, halfway through, Turner suffered a shoulder injury in a scrimmage that required surgery. Turner is back healthy for fall camp and is “making a move” according to Dabo. I will have more on this in my next camp update post.

Projection: Now that Turner is healthy and drawing praise from the staff, perhaps it’s time to throw him back in the mix of players that will be playing meaningful snaps this year. I expected him to be a little behind Denzel and a little ginger on the shoulder after missing time, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. I still think Denzel is going to start the season as the primary backup to both safety spots, but having another quality backup at a thin position is great news. Should he continue to perform well, I think he can take one of the backup spots outright. I think he’s best suited for WS, but like Denzel, he can play both. As I’ve said before, I think he’s ready for primetime and just needs to play. I expect him to begin getting meaningful snaps in late September.


8/15/17 – Nolan Turner is the son of former Alabama and Philadelphia Eagles player, Kevin Turner.  Nolan’s Dad started 39 games at Alabama and was a pass-catching FB in the NFL. Kevin Turner and Dabo were friends and former teammates at Alabama. Kevin passed away from Lou Gehrig’s disease in March of 2016 and was the lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit against the NFL for misleading players about the dangers of concussions. It’s a very sad story for Nolan, but before Kevin passed, Dabo offered Nolan and gave him his only power 5 offer.

Nolan’s playing style is one built on toughness just like his father. He is a fearless bullet-train as a hitter and has surprising range as a deep safety. Does it bother me that Nolan is so physical knowing what his Dad went through?  The answer is yes and no. 90% of the time Lou Gehrig’s disease is not hereditary and there is now a concussion protocol players must go through, unlike in his dad’s era. I’m still concerned for him, but at the same time, nobody knows more about what his Dad went through than him.  I’m sure not many people know more about the risk he’s taking than him and his family. So, if he knows all of this and wants to beat the demon that took his father so to speak, then, needless to say, I’m pulling for him.

The good news here is that Nolan Turner can play.  He also fits the Clemson criteria as a good kid with high intelligence. Simply put, he’s better than the 2-Star rating Rivals gave him in high school.  Turner redshirted last year as a true freshman.

In the spring game this year, we got our first opportunity to see Turner, and as expected, he performed well. For starters, he brings the pain.  This kid will fly in there and hit anybody with reckless abandon.  The open field hit on Cannon Smith that sent him head over heels was a beauty. However, its the play after play physicality that you notice. When the ball carrier crosses the LOS, he comes off the hash at full speed and headhunts the ball carrier. He doesn’t get credit for the tackle on these, but I like an enforcer that delivers the message to the RB that they better get down and not fight for extra yards or it’s going to hurt.

In coverage, I saw him give up a 10 yard catch to Powell, but that was it. He really snuffs out those bubble screens and Powell couldn’t escape him there. Of course, as I pointed out in the film review, when the SS starts making plays at the LOS, the deep ball is coming. In fact, after he stuffed Powell, on the very next play the ran 3 curls and a streak by the slot WR, Chase, right at him.  He played it beautifully, was over the top of Chase, high-pointed the ball, intercepted Cooper’s pass, and returned it 24 yards.  That is a high football IQ play to know that they are going to come after you when you start making plays at the LOS.  The next series, they ran another bubble screen at Turner’s side, but this time with the 5WR, Chase. Cain blocked Carter and Chase got through. Turner came downhill and both he and Chase had a serious manhood check where both guys lowered the shoulder and passed the test. It was wonderful.

On special teams, Turner started the game with a kickoff tackle on Feaster. The next time down, Choice accounted for him and rooted him out and Feaster accounted for his over-aggressive style by cutting to the outside and getting a good return. Thus the reason for the phrase, stay in your lane. Still, he should be money on special teams for us for the next few years.

Projection:  I like Turner as the backup to Van Smith, but I understand if the staff lists Denzel there because of seniority. I anticipated A.J. Terrell moving to strong safety because of his 6’2″ frame and our need for an elite athlete as an heir apparent there, but he has been playing CB in fall camp. The way Turner comes off the hash at the first sign of a run might scare Venables into worrying about him giving up big plays. You can’t deny the way he came right back over the top of the deepest receiver in the spring game after doing that.  The possibility exists that he has great instincts and might not be as dangerous of a player as he seems.


January, 2016 – Well, it would seem that he was not on any of the major recruiting sites’ radar at the time of this post but, I’ll ease your mind and let you know that he is not a 0-star player.  The major question for me now is why isn’t he on their radar? He is a college level athlete for sure.

Turner is smart and a student of the game. He is the go-to interview for his high-school team, so there is a lot of footage of him talking out there. He has no shortage of intelligence and football IQ for his age.

The first thing that jumps out at me on film is that he runs through contact like an old school Lott/Tatum/Lynch type safety. He is fearless. Imagine Boulware at safety and that will create a good picture of what he does. He gets the award for the hardest hit I’ve seen on film from a recruit so far this year (Jamie Skalski might disagree but, it’s at 0:57 in this video below). Enjoy.

Turner has decent straight line speed, good ball skills, great hands, and man, can he get downhill and lay a pop. Whatever his 40 time is, he runs it at all times. The kid will run through a brick wall. He is a splatter guy through and through. He does not break-down to make a tackle, but instead comes in like a missile.

Turner likes to be aligned deep and bait the QB into throwing it to the area between the LB and him. Then he flies up as an enforcer and unloads on the receiver.  I’ll be interested to see if Venables uses him like that because he is really good at it. It’ll also be interesting to see if he can avoid targeting calls. With his size/speed/frame, he could grow into a LB, add WR depth, and I think he could play RB as well. Turner plays WR on offense for his high school team He high-points the ball comfortably and he can make a play with the ball when he catches it.

Ya’ll remember that kickoff coverage problem we had in the Natty all season? Well, Dorian O’Daniel has some help on the way with Turner. This guy will be fun to watch on coverage teams.

Turner’s weakness is with DB fundamentals, especially his backpedal. He has Garry Peters-like change of direction when he wants to get downhill but, I don’t see him doing the things we will require him to do in coverage (a one step turn, backpedal weave, C2 hash work, or C4 pass/run keys, C4 #1/#2 receiver recognition).  As a man to man safety, I don’t know if he’s any good there or not. His backpedal is weak and under-developed for a guy with his ability.  He makes up for it with instincts and excellent range, but in our system, we’ll ask that of him so he’ll need to get better. The bad news is that there are a lot of guys work for years on their backpedal and never fix this problem (Travis Blanks comes to mind). The term for that is “stiff in the hips.” The good news though is that it looks like a coaching issue may be part of the problem. This is a fall-back option, yes, but he does the things you can’t teach better than a lot of 4-Stars.

If he has the smarts and work ethic of Nolan Turner, I would also offer the other safety on his team as well, #18 Jonathon Hess. He’s a 6’5″/ 200 lbs Sophomore and shows a lot of athleticism and physicality already. With his frame, he could be a versatile project at several different positions (TE, OT, DE, S, LB, ST) if the safety-quality-speed doesn’t fully develop. Update 6/21/17 –Hess committed to Ole Miss

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