UMD Coaches, Academics Hit Home with Turner

Maryland's search for a 2015 running back continued March 8 as the Terps played host to a pair of intriguing Virginia products, Frankie Hickson (Heritage/Lynchburg, Va.) and AJ Turner (Centreville/Clifton, Va.). Hickson is an under-the-radar type who does not hold any firm offers yet, but Turner is a multiple-scholarship guy who Maryland has been after for a couple months now.

Maryland's search for a 2015 running back continued March 8 as the Terps played host to a pair of intriguing Virginia products, Frankie Hickson (Heritage/Lynchburg, Va.) and A.J. Turner (Centreville/Clifton, Va.). Hickson is an under-the-radar type who does not hold any firm offers yet, but Turner is a multiple-scholarship guy who Maryland has been after for a couple months now.

The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Turner spent more than three hours in College Park, Md., March 8, taking in practice in Byrd Stadium and chatting up the coaches.

"I really enjoyed myself, but I'd say the big thing for me was their coaches were really involved and with me and my parents," Turner said. "They were really personal, gave good information and were real with me and where I was at.

"They really spent time getting to know me and my family. Yes, they had offered and yes they want me to play for them, but their concern is for me as a person and getting my degree. They were telling me how 79 of 80 guys graduated in the last three years, and that's impressive. Like Coach [Randy] Edsall was talking about how there are guys on the team in hard majors like kinesiology, business administration, and areas like that, and those are challenging courses.

"To me that means a lot that you can challenge yourself like that as a football player, and Maryland is going to support you. I'm thinking about majoring in sociology and psychology or something along those lines myself. Academics are very improtant to me."

Maryland's education certainly struck home, but he enjoyed watching the football team as well. He said he paid close attention during the 7-on-7 segment and also how the coaches interacted with the players.

"It was really organized and the players were on top of things. They moved quickly between drills, and I liked that," Turner said. "I liked how energetic the coaches were and kept things flowing."

Turner went on to say that he had a chance to speak with his recruiter, Lyndon Johnson, running backs coach Andre Powell, offensive coordinator Mike Locksley and Edsall.

"Coach Johnson, he was telling me he wants players who know the game and you don't have to teach a lot to," Turner said. "Like, he was saying how they'd just have to teach me the plays, because I already know the position so well. How to accelerate, how to find holes, how to cut back, how to follow blocks – that I know. So that made me feel good because it shows my hard work my whole high school career is paying off.

"I also know if I went to Maryland, I'd have a chance to play early. I know I'd have a chance there if I continue developing and working hard." The Centreville back had high praise for Maryland, but the Terps are just one of several options for him. Turner currently claims offers from Virginia, Virginia Tech, South Carolina, ODU, Boston College, Clemson and Pittsburgh, with North Carolina, Tennessee, Penn State and Duke on the verge.

"I'm still kind of processing this recruiting thing, but if I had to say right now, out of all my offers, Maryland would be like third or fourth," Turner said. "But I don't have any true favorites yet or anything, it's just my initial reaction."

So, who are those other three or four on Turner's mind? Naturally, he gave the SEC school South Carolina a nod, while lauding in-state favorite Virginia and ACC stalwart Virginia. North Carolina, which hasn't pulled the trigger yet, is also in play.

"I visited UVA last weekend and that was really exciting. I really, really like them," Turner said. "Coach [Mike] London took me into his office and he was telling me how I needed to get my parents up there immediately. I had a really good talk with their staff, and we talked about my interest in the school and why they'd be a great fit for me. And the academics there are amazing, as well as the academic support program. I went to the basketball game, and it was really live and entertaining. Like, the gym was shaking it was so loud in there. I loved it."

Turner next described why UNC is high on his initial list.

"North Carolina, they really want me down there to visit. One of friends, Caleb Henderson the quarterback, he's going there, and I've been in contact with their one coach," Turner said. "When I've been talking to him, he's been really cool and funny, and he relates to me well and understands me. I'm not sure how close Carolina is to offering, but my coaches tell me they're really interested."

The two South Carolina schools also have his attention.

"With Clemson, their campus ministry stood out because I'm really involved in my church," Turner said. "That's something very unique about them. They also have a great football team, and I like watching them. And I have a friend who graduated from there, and she absolutely loved it there, and she was like, ‘You have to come here.' She was telling me great things about the school.

"And South Carolina, yes, they're definitely in the picture. The school and program speak for themselves. They're my No. 1 of the schools that have offered me. I was down there for a visit last year and I'm looking forward to going back."

After taking in UVA and UMD the last couple weeks, Turner is attempting to see Clemson and UNC in short order.

He said one of the main things he'll be evaluating when researching these schools is potential playing time.

"I want to go to a really solid program, but also a program I could play at," said Turner, who has no timetable for making a decision. "I don't want to just be returning kicks or something like that. I want to find a place that's going to let me run the ball and show what I can do."

Turner is coming off a season where he rushed for 1,200 yards and 35 touchdowns, while averaging 9.8 yards per carry. He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds.

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