Aggressive Turk Has Hop To Step

Inside the Loftus Center at Notre Dame's fourth fall practice of the season, the offensive linemen gathered around the sled. Junior Michael Turkovich, who's been walking around with a little pep in his step, gets in his three-point stance. The Irish guard slams into the sled driving it in the air, much to the approval of offensive line coach John Latina.

No. 77 looks a little different this fall. Turkovich appears bigger than the 299 pounds listed in the media guide, and you can't miss his intensity in the 20 minutes the media gets to view practice.

"I have to play aggressive," Turkovich stated, as he continues to make the transformation from tackle to guard.

That aggressive play has Turkovich in position to start at left guard this fall. He ran with the first team much of the spring, and heads into the fall with the top spot on the initial depth chart.

Turkovich played tackle his first two seasons in an Irish uniform, but with the graduation of Dan Santucci and Bob Morton, the Irish coaches were looking for a way to get their five best linemen on the field and moved Turkovich to the interior of the line. A seldom-used player as a freshman and sophomore, Turkovich began to thrive with more opportunities.

"I think maybe in the spring because I got a lot of reps and got a little more confidence playing guard," Turkovich said of when he began to feel comfortable. In high school, Turkovich was a tight end and didn't begin playing tackle until the end of his senior year. "Tackle, I was comfortable, but I'm really comfortable playing guard right now. All those reps in the spring, I got to learn the offense a lot better."

Even though Turkovich hasn't lined up at tackle since the change, that flexibility is still there for the coaches to do with what they want.

"Earlier when I was freshman and sophomore playing tackle, I was learning only my position left tackle," he said. "Playing guard, I realized, you know, I learned more of the whole offense. What's the scheme of things and I think that knowledge really helped me."

The experience of being on campus for three years has also helped him and classmate Paul Duncan. The two combine to likely be the left side of the Irish offensive line.

"I think they have gotten a lot better from fall to spring and from spring to where we are right now," Latina said. "What happens, there's a great deal of confidence because of doing it over and over again. And just the fact that you've done it and been in the system gives you mental confidence that you can go out there and execute and play better. And you see some confidence growing in those guys."

For a quick second, Turkovich thought he might have lost it all football wise.

During fall camp his sophomore season, Turkovich was involved in a pile-up that left him with a neck injury. He ended up missing only two weeks, but anytime a football player hears neck injury, they think the worst.

"It was a scary situation," Turkovich said. "You don't want to end your career like that."

Turkovich wasn't gun shy when he returned to practice. He ended playing in nine games as the Irish made a trip to their second straight Bowl Championship Series game. The season before, Turkovich worked into the rotation as a true freshman, seeing action in seven games.

"It definitely gave me a boost of confidence," Turkovich said. "You know you're good enough to play in a game. It helps you see things to, to play at game speed. It helps get a little bit of game experience. I know you're not in there in the first or second quarter, you're at the end of the game, but it helps you understand the speed of the game."

Turkovich fully understands the position he is in now, and with that, he drives that sled as hard as he can. Top Stories