Jourdan Lewis. David Long. Lavert Hill. Ambry Thomas. Jim Harbaugh has found some top corners during his time coaching the Michigan Wolverines, and after a disastrous 2020 season that felt like rock bottom, the next name on that list is starting to become much more clear.
DJ Turner was not necessarily brought to Ann Arbor to be a lockdown, put-him-on-an-island type of weapon, but the redshirt sophomore is on that path now. An All-Big Ten honorable mention in 2021 has drastically changes the stakes, and this progression has come at the perfect time.
The story so far
Turner landed exactly at No. 400 overall and the No. 40 cornerback in the 247Sports composite three years ago. His measurables did not exactly jump off the page, and he looked like a project coming into college, which is exactly how Michigan treated him, essentially limiting his playing time to special teams during his first two seasons.
However, that all changed in 2021, with Turner working his way onto the field and making the most of the snaps he saw. In total, he earned eight starts at corner and racked up a couple pass breakups, a tackle for loss, and a took back an interception of Taulia Tagovailoa to the house:
As mentioned above, this earned him an honorable mention at defensive back on last season’s All-Big Ten squads which is quite the achievement for a player who barely had any defensive snaps entering 2021.
Outlook moving forward
Vincent Gray is gone, and while Gemon Green returns and Will Johnson joins the squad, Turner is the CB1 to start the new year. There were a few hiccups at times, but really this is the type of corner who truly can go head-to-head with a team’s best receiver and give confidence to Harbaugh and new defensive coordinator Jesse Minter.
As for those recruiting question marks, Bruce Feldman placed Turner on his annual Freaks List, calling out his insane speed and promising trajectory:
He is the fastest guy on the Wolverines, having hit 23.07 mph on the GPS and run a 4.28 40 — out of a two-point stance, no less. His 3-cone time is even more stunning. He clocked a 6.29 this offseason, and strength coaches think he has a good shot at besting the combine record of 6.28, set in 2018 by Oklahoma’s Jordan Thomas.
The sky is the limit for Turner as a returning starter, but truthfully the Wolverines just need him to be a solid, reliable option even if that does not come with a lot of flash. He certainly has the traits and the ability to turn some heads, but just having a legitimate CB1 will make the rest of the defense a lot stronger by default.