No-Huddle Series: New Mexico State RB Kenny Turner

I came home from work today and watched an E:60 segment about Titans running back Chris Johnson and his best friend Kenny Turner. If you haven’t seen the segment, you can read the full story about their friendship and the events that transpired that led to a felony conviction and five years in jail. If you ask Johnson or neighborhood friend Mike-Sims Walker, Turner was the best football player in the neighborhood.

Turner played for the New Mexico State Aggies and, like his best friend, was switched from running back to receiver, back to running back. I only had a chance to watch a half of a game tonight against Georgia, but here are three notable plays the reveal some good things about his game. All of them are pass receptions.

The first play is a 3rd and 7 pass with 5:35 in the first quarter from a 1×2 receiver, 11-personnel pistol set.

Turner flanks the quarterback to the strong side of the formation and runs a swing route from the backfield on this third-and-7 play.

The ball arrives over Turner’s outside shoulder and he catches the pass with his hands while on the move.

Good technique to catch the ball in stride with his hands, which is what you expect from a former receiver.

Turner heads up the flat with a starting point four yards behind the line of scrimmage and as he reaches the line of scrimmage he encounters CB Brandon Boykin charging up the flat. Bokin is a pretty sound tackler, but he tries to cut Turner rather and than hit and wrap. This proves to be a mistake.

Boykin tries to cut across Turner’s legs and drive through, but Turner is too agile. He uses his inside arm to ward off some of the contact and then hops over the rest.

Boykin manages to plow ahead just enough to make Turner work to get away from the defender’s angle without getting hit in the legs.

Turner is able to turn his hips away from the contact and use his free arm to push off the defender Boykin.

As Turner clears this hit, he demonstrates excellent balance to maintain his footing and gain another six yards his momentum carries him out of bounds.

Good job planting his free hand into the turf to maintain his balance.
Turner manages to run through his stumble to continue to gain yardage while regaining his balance.

Turner steps out of bounds just as he encounters the back side pursuit.

This was a good display of soft hands, agility, and balance against a difficult obstacle in Boykin. Although the tackle wasn’t technically perfect, the angle and effort were good.

Turner’s next target went for 49 yards with 2:38 in the first quarter from a 12 personnel with twin receivers to the near side. Turner flanked the QB to the twin side in the pistol set.

This is a play-action book right and throwback to the left. Turner carries out the play fake to the line of scrimmage, slips into the left flat and comes free 20 yards down field.

Turner makes the catch over his inside shoulder with his hands while on the run.

Play fake to Turner towards the left side of the line.
Turner carries out the fake as the QB rolls left.
Good job tracking the ball over his inside shoulder with his arms extended from his body and looking the pass into his hands while on the run.

He accelerated up the sideline for another 29 yards before the safety with a strong angle forced Turner outside the boundary. The safety’s angle was a good 5-7 yards over top the runner as he began his pursuit and he got even with Turner as he closed to the sideline.

From what I can tell Turner has good speed. Chris Johnson speed? I don’t think so, but good enough to beat a defensive back if the defender’s angle isn’t optimal like this one was.

The final catch was an eight-yard gain on a 1st and 10 swing pass with 6:05 in the half from a 2×2 receiver, 10 personnel shotgun set.This is another swing route to the right flat, but this time Turner faces down two formidable defenders and he makes both miss in a tight space.

Turner swings to the right flat with the ILB and CB in pursuit.

The Aggies runner catches the ball at his back shoulder with his hands about five yards behind the line of scrimmage.

This 2-on-1 open field play appears to favor Georgia, especially with two future pros on the defensive side in pursuit.

But Turner flashes that skill that his friends Mike Sims-Walker and Chris Johnson describe. Turner begins with a lateral cut inside CB Brandon Boykin that eliminates the defender’s angle.

Turner displays light feet with good change of direction and burst similar to that of SDSU runner Ronnie Hillman.

As quickly as he cuts inside Boykin, Turner spins inside the LB Shawn Williams to eliminate his angle over the top.

What I like about this spin move is that it took place a step after clearing the cornerback and executed with a tight turn with velocity.
As Turner completes his spin, the LB is now behind the RB and can only grab rather than hit.
Turner gets his pads low and begins to drive through the wrap. This is especially important for smaller backs like Turner to execute to break tackles against larger defenders.
Turner’s effort busts him loose into the open field and he gains eight yards up the sideline.

Based on what I’ve seen thus far, Turner has the athleticism and basic skills of a runner to a high enough level of proficiency to get a free agent contract if he’s not drafted. I’m interested in watching more. There’s some of that Chris Johnson-Taiwan Jones style to him that bears further investigation.

Download the 2012 Rookie Scouting Portfolio for analysis of over 151 prospects at QB, RB, WR, and TE.

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