Year in Review: Illini WR Malik Turner

Illini Inquirer football analyst Micheal Young reviews the 2015 season for rising junior Malik Turner and sets expectations for the receiver for 2016

Last year, the Illinois wide receiver position was ravaged by injuries, forcing a young unit to fill big shoes vacated by senior starter Justin Hardee (foot) and Scout.com Freshman All-American Mikey Dudek (torn ACL). The position group had to work through some growing pains, which resulted in incredibly inconsistent production. Some of the mistakes stem from route miscommunication with quarterback Wes Lunt and concentration lapses, which lead to about 60 dropped passes -- an alarming number. Despite the ups and downs, the receivers gained needed experience and confidence as the year progressed. Today, let's focus on an Illini receiver who has flashed No. 1 potential.

Malik Turner

2015 in Review

Talented sophomore Malik Turner had a sluggish start to 2015.  During nonconference play (four games), Turner had just six receptions for 32 yards. Through the rough patch, Turner dropped passes in all areas: short, intermediate and down the field. He played hesitantly, which affected his ability to run routes at the proper receiver depth. Turner let some passes get into his body which caused some deflections off his pads instead of catching the ball with his hands.  He also attempted to run without securing the catch instead of looking the ball all the way into his hands.

But things turned for the better during Big Ten play. Turner finished the year third on the team with 39 receptions, second on the team with 510 yards and tied for first on the team with three touchdown receptions. 

This 50-yard pass catch against Nebraska was the turning point of Turner's season. On the game-winning drive, he got behind the Cornhuskers secondary with speed off the line of scrimmage. He also displayed body control, which is an important attribute for a wide receier. In the process of the pass from Lunt, Turner adjusted his body and caught the pass falling down during a pivotal moment in the game. His catch set up the victory for the Illini.

Turner also showed some flash by making this difficult one-handed catch against Iowa. Once again, he showed some speed down the field, getting behind the secondary and separating himself from the Iowa defensive back

However, the next two clips could easily be two of his most impressive catches. First, this 37-yard catch against Wisconsin was set up by his route running. Turner showed another important attribute for a receiver by executing one of the harder routes for a receiver to run. He set up the Wisconsin defensive back by faking a corner post and coming back to the middle of the field. Turner made a sharp cut to his left to gain separation without losing speed and then came back for the underthrown pass. If Lunt was able to step into the throw, this would have resulted in a touchdown. 

Next, Turner had a career day against Minnesota with 11 receptions for 126 yards and a touchdown. This third-down conversion may not be as flashy as his other highlights, but he showed good contact balance after adjusting his body to make the reception and also showed some athletic ability running after the catch on his way to a first down. 

Offseason Focus

To be a reliable target, Turner must improve his skill set in two areas. First, he must defeat press coverage with consistency. Future opponents will try to copy the same success Penn State's defense had against the Illini offense by pressing their corners on the outside, forcing Lunt to make pin-point passes. With Turner's height (6-foot-3), he is already taller than the majority of the cornerbacks who line up across from him. He can impose his size with physicality at the line of scrimmage. Improving his hand contact is important. He will be better by more consistently getting his hands on the defensive back first. He should watch film of Jets receiver Brandon Marshall, who has used physicality to defeat press coverage year after year. Secondly, Turner must improve his catching radius by simply using his body to box out the defensive back to prevent pass break ups or interceptions. 

2016 Expectations

For Turner to continue his progression, he needs to start faster in 2016. With two years worth of playing experience and the departure of Geronimo Allison, there is a possibility that Turner will move into the possession receiver role. He has shown the ability to make plays down the field but will need to be a more consistent target when it comes to the high percentage passing game -- hauling in slants, hitches and seam shots. Also like Allison, Turner should become the go-to receiver in the red zone -- an area in which the Illini struggled greatly -- by catching back-shoulder fades or climbing the ladder the for jump balls. Turner should be the big-bodied, physical complement to the quick-cutting Desmond Cain and Dudek, who returns to the field after a lost 2015. Turner has the talent to come close to matching Allison's 2015 production (65 catches, 882 yards, 3 TDs).

Micheal Young is the football analyst for IlliniInquirer.com. Young was a four-year starter for Illinois football and a team captain. The St. Louis native also played for the NFL's Arizona Cardinals from 2001-04. He serves as a color analyst for several broadcast outlets and co-hosts an Illini podcast with former UI teammate Carey Davis on Huddlepass.com


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Turner also showed some flash by making this difficult one-handed catch against Iowa. Once again, he showed some speed down the field, getting behind the secondary and separating himself from the Iowa defensive back

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However, the next two clips could easily be two of his most impressive catches. First, this 37-yard catch against Wisconsin was set up by his route running. Turner showed another important attribute for a receiver by executing one of the harder routes for a receiver to run. He set up the Wisconsin defensive back by faking a corner post and coming back to the middle of the field. Turner made a sharp cut to his left to gain separation without losing speed and then came back for the underthrown pass. If Lunt was able to step into the throw, this would have resulted in a touchdown. 

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Next, Turner had a career day against Minnesota with 11 receptions for 126 yards and a touchdown. This third-down conversion may not be as flashy as his other highlights, but he showed good contact balance after adjusting his body to make the reception and also showed some athletic ability running after the catch on his way to a first down. 

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Offseason Focus

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To be a reliable target, Turner must improve his skill set in two areas. First, he must defeat press coverage with consistency. Future opponents will try to copy the same success Penn State's defense had against the Illini offense by pressing their corners on the outside, forcing Lunt to make pin-point passes. With Turner's height (6-foot-3), he is already taller than the majority of the cornerbacks who line up across from him. He can impose his size with physicality at the line of scrimmage. Improving his hand contact is important. He will be better by more consistently getting his hands on the defensive back first. He should watch film of Jets receiver Brandon Marshall, who has used physicality to defeat press coverage year after year. Secondly, Turner must improve his catching radius by simply using his body to box out the defensive back to prevent pass break ups or interceptions. 

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2016 Expectations

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For Turner to continue his progression, he needs to start faster in 2016. With two years worth of playing experience and the departure of Geronimo Allison, there is a possibility that Turner will move into the possession receiver role. He has shown the ability to make plays down the field but will need to be a more consistent target when it comes to the high percentage passing game -- hauling in slants, hitches and seam shots. Also like Allison, Turner should become the go-to receiver in the red zone -- an area in which the Illini struggled greatly -- by catching back-shoulder fades or climbing the ladder the for jump balls. Turner should be the big-bodied, physical complement to the quick-cutting Desmond Cain and Dudek, who returns to the field after a lost 2015. Turner has the talent to come close to matching Allison's 2015 production (65 catches, 882 yards, 3 TDs).

\n

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Micheal Young is the football analyst for IlliniInquirer.com. Young was a four-year starter for Illinois football and a team captain. The St. Louis native also played for the NFL's Arizona Cardinals from 2001-04. He serves as a color analyst for several broadcast outlets and co-hosts an Illini podcast with former UI teammate Carey Davis on Huddlepass.com

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Last year, the Illinois wide receiver position was ravaged by injuries, forcing a young unit to fill big shoes vacated by senior starter Justin Hardee (foot) and Scout.com Freshman All-American Mikey Dudek (torn ACL). The position group had to work through some growing pains, which resulted in incredibly inconsistent production. Some of the mistakes stem from route miscommunication with quarterback Wes Lunt and concentration lapses, which lead to about 60 dropped passes -- an alarming number. Despite the ups and downs, the receivers gained needed experience and confidence as the year progressed. Today, let's focus on an Illini receiver who has flashed No. 1 potential.

Malik Turner

2015 in Review

Talented sophomore Malik Turner had a sluggish start to 2015. During nonconference play (four games), Turner had just six receptions for 32 yards. Through the rough patch, Turner dropped passes in all areas: short, intermediate and down the field. He played hesitantly, which affected his ability to run routes at the proper receiver depth. Turner let some passes get into his body which caused some deflections off his pads instead of catching the ball with his hands. He also attempted to run without securing the catch instead of looking the ball all the way into his hands.

But things turned for the better during Big Ten play. Turner finished the year third on the team with 39 receptions, second on the team with 510 yards and tied for first on the team with three touchdown receptions.

This 50-yard pass catch against Nebraska was the turning point of Turner's season. On the game-winning drive, he got behind the Cornhuskers secondary with speed off the line of scrimmage. He also displayed body control, which is an important attribute for a wide receier. In the process of the pass from Lunt, Turner adjusted his body and caught the pass falling down during a pivotal moment in the game. His catch set up the victory for the Illini.

Turner also showed some flash by making this difficult one-handed catch against Iowa. Once again, he showed some speed down the field, getting behind the secondary and separating himself from the Iowa defensive back

However, the next two clips could easily be two of his most impressive catches. First, this 37-yard catch against Wisconsin was set up by his route running. Turner showed another important attribute for a receiver by executing one of the harder routes for a receiver to run. He set up the Wisconsin defensive back by faking a corner post and coming back to the middle of the field. Turner made a sharp cut to his left to gain separation without losing speed and then came back for the underthrown pass. If Lunt was able to step into the throw, this would have resulted in a touchdown.

Next, Turner had a career day against Minnesota with 11 receptions for 126 yards and a touchdown. This third-down conversion may not be as flashy as his other highlights, but he showed good contact balance after adjusting his body to make the reception and also showed some athletic ability running after the catch on his way to a first down.

Offseason Focus

To be a reliable target, Turner must improve his skill set in two areas. First, he must defeat press coverage with consistency. Future opponents will try to copy the same success Penn State's defense had against the Illini offense by pressing their corners on the outside, forcing Lunt to make pin-point passes. With Turner's height (6-foot-3), he is already taller than the majority of the cornerbacks who line up across from him. He can impose his size with physicality at the line of scrimmage. Improving his hand contact is important. He will be better by more consistently getting his hands on the defensive back first. He should watch film of Jets receiver Brandon Marshall, who has used physicality to defeat press coverage year after year. Secondly, Turner must improve his catching radius by simply using his body to box out the defensive back to prevent pass break ups or interceptions.

2016 Expectations

For Turner to continue his progression, he needs to start faster in 2016. With two years worth of playing experience and the departure of Geronimo Allison, there is a possibility that Turner will move into the possession receiver role. He has shown the ability to make plays down the field but will need to be a more consistent target when it comes to the high percentage passing game -- hauling in slants, hitches and seam shots. Also like Allison, Turner should become the go-to receiver in the red zone -- an area in which the Illini struggled greatly -- by catching back-shoulder fades or climbing the ladder the for jump balls. Turner should be the big-bodied, physical complement to the quick-cutting Desmond Cain and Dudek, who returns to the field after a lost 2015. Turner has the talent to come close to matching Allison's 2015 production (65 catches, 882 yards, 3 TDs).

Micheal Young is the football analyst for IlliniInquirer.com. Young was a four-year starter for Illinois football and a team captain. The St. Louis native also played for the NFL's Arizona Cardinals from 2001-04. He serves as a color analyst for several broadcast outlets and co-hosts an Illini podcast with former UI teammate Carey Davis on Huddlepass.com.

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