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Michigan kicker James Turner needs a nickname

Turner has historic shoes to fill for the Wolverines, but if his career is any indication, he is up for the task.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 29 Wake Forest at Louisville Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Michigan Wolverines recently landed their most important addition for the 2023 season in the transfer portal. No, it’s not a wide receiver or a corner, although both would be nice, it is former Louisville kicker and Saline native James Turner.

Turner is a three-year starting kicker who immediately becomes the most experienced kicker by default at Michigan by a margin of 57 career field goal attempts.

Turner’s commitment led me to an important realization — he needs a nickname.

All the great players have nicknames, even kickers. Jake Moody was bestowed several: Money Moody, Jake the Make, and from one woman sitting next to me in section 35 of last year’s Michigan State game, “Big Booty Moody!” This is also the reason Quinn Nordin was always just Quinn Nordin.

J-Money? Jimmy Cooks? HIM Turner? We’ll keep searching for what makes a good nickname, but the more pertinent question I guess is what makes a good kicker?

Moody leaves Michigan as the all-time leading scorer and a beloved icon, but did you know Moody missed six field goals last year? Nordin never missed more than five in a season and Kenny Allen never missed more than four.

Or think back to 2021, up seven against Rutgers with 1:54 to go. Moody lined up to ice the game from 47 yards out and knuckleball-pushed it wide right forcing the defense to make a stand to win the game.

Moody had his fair share of down moments and down seasons (2019, 2020), but his perseverance is why he’s remembered. Some kickers never recover from tumultuous years, but Moody did so to the tune of numerous school records, game-winning performances against Nebraska in 2021 and Illinois and 2022, and becoming a third-round selection in the 2023 NFL Draft.

J-Money comes to Michigan on a similar path as Moody. As a sophomore, Turner made 13-of-15 field goal attempts, with his only two misses each coming from 52 yards. But as a junior, Turner fell to a place where most kickers never escape.

On the season, Turner was just 13-for-20 on field goals. The season reached an all-time low after he missed one kick in a three-point loss to Wake Forest, and followed that game up by missing two kicks (including a game-winner as time expired) in a one-point loss against Virginia.

Much like Moody following the 2020 season, Turner had to reclaim his starting position the following year and regain the trust of the team. Turner entered spring ball in a kicking competition with the highly touted Brock Travelstead — known on Instagram as Legatron38.

Jimmy Cooks would not be deterred and won back his starting position before the season and relegated Legatron to spot kick-off duty. Last season, Turner was excellent, converting 20-of-22 field goals en route to setting the school record for single-season field goal percentage (90.9%), which ranked him sixth nationally among Power Five kickers.

Understanding the paralleling career trajectories of Moody and Turner made me realize that while most kickers can be consumed by their failures, the greatest kickers only see their next kick. Look at the GOAT, Justin Tucker of the Baltimore Ravens.

In 2015, Tucker converted field goals at a career-low rate of 82.5% on 40 attempts. The following year Tucker led the NFL at an absurd 97.4% on 39 attempts. Tucker’s confidence never wavered, he simply recalibrated, and kick after kick he reached a new high.

Moody wasn't thinking about his 0-for-3 performance against 2020 Minnesota, while he knocked through four fields against Nebraska the following year. And Turner wasn’t thinking about missing the game-winner against Virginia while he set a school record for accuracy in 2022.

But at the end of his record-setting season, Turner’s head coach Scott Satterfield left to take the vacant job at Cincinnati. Former Purdue coach Jeff Brohm took over the program and Turner stuck it out through the spring game, in which he drilled three field goals, including one from beyond 50.

However following the spring game, Turner decided to enter the transfer portal with a strict “Do Not Contact” message. He knew where he was going; HIM Turner was coming home. Back to his home state, on a scholarship to a school that once had Turner super excited over a preferred walk-on offer.

Turner will be called upon in big spots this season. Potentially on the road against Michigan State or Penn State, or Ohio State with win No. 1,000 on the line. But with the recalibrated season on display in 2022, I trust Turner to cement his legacy at Michigan kick after kick.

Big Game James? Jamo? Mr. T? We almost have the nickname, but at least Michigan has its kicker.