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DJ Turner’s path to Michigan, outlook for 2021

Turner may get his shot in 2021.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 21 Michigan at Rutgers Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The cornerbacks on the Michigan Wolverines’ roster were shaky at best in the final season of Don Brown’s career with the program. A combination of inexperience, lack of development and poor usage of talent was a recipe for a disastrous season. The Wolverines finished 93rd in passing defense in the country as they allowed 255.5 opposing passing yards per game. In a conference that touts some impressive offenses, that just won’t cut it.

With a new defensive coordinator leading the charge, the Wolverines may look to some younger talent to step up. One of the guys to watch out for in that department is redshirt sophomore DJ Turner.

The story so far

Turner came to Michigan from SEC country. The Suwanee, Georgia product attended high school at IMG Academy for his senior season and earned the interest of some of the top schools in the country. Michigan earned the three-star’s commitment over offers from Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida State and others.

Before attending school in Ann Arbor, he went to The Opening and was named one of the 20 most athletic players at the event. He played safety until switching to cornerback and putting on some weight in his final season of high school football. That was partly under the direction of former All-Pro defensive back Ray Buchanan, who began to work out with Turner when he was in seventh grade.

Buchanan and Jim Harbaugh played together with the Indianapolis Colts in the ‘90s and the two became very close. This was the pitch the former All-Pro safety gave to the Michigan head coach regarding Turner:

Literally, I was like, ‘Jim, there are a lot of guys out here. I’m pretty sure there are a bunch of five-stars. But if you’re looking for one that hasn’t peaked yet… because a lot of kids can peak kind of early… if you want one that hasn’t peaked, yet, that still has the capability to absorb so much information, that’s a smart kid with a great I.Q., that’s physical, and all he needs to put is a little bit of meat on his bones… because when he goes to college and goes to that training table, he’ll definitely get bigger… then you’re going to love this kid. He has great instincts and he is always around the football. You’ve got to be patient with him. You’ve got to let him buy into the system, but he’s going to be a good one.’

Turner immediately was put on the special teams unit upon arriving in Ann Arbor. As a freshman, he maintained his redshirt status after appearing in just four games. Harbaugh was impressed with the corner in spring camp, but a glute injury kept him off the field for a large portion of the season.

In a shortened redshirt freshman season, Turner appeared in all six games on special teams and got into the rotation at corner. His snaps were somewhat limited playing behind Vincent Gray, Gemon Green and Jalen Perry. He saw a total of 11 snaps at the cornerback position in 2021.

Outlook moving forward

Under Mike Macdonald, there could be some shakeups on the depth chart that may surprise some fans. According to Harbaugh, Turner could take a starting spot from Gray, who came in as the No. 1 corner in 2020.

This is just a sign of how much Turner continues to maximize his minutes during the offseason training. Senior linebacker and captain Josh Ross took note of how much Turner has improved. He was asked which players stuck out the most to him after spring camp, and Turner was the first name he mentioned.

If Turner can translate the success he has had in practice to his play on the field, he could very easily take full grasp of an open starting cornerback spot in the new-look defense.