Antonio Turner was one of just a handful of true freshmen to get playing time in 2005.
The 6-1 and then 223-pounder earned some backup PT at tailback with a hard-nosed style that indicated he had some instincts and talent for the position.
But with BenJarvus Green-Ellis coming off a redshirt campaign, last year's starter Mico McSwain back for his sophomore season and several running backs signed in the 2006 class, the coaches have opted to move him to defense.
"Yes, it's official. I have been moved to linebacker," said Antonio, who seems to always be smiling. "So far, it's a lot of fun. I like it a lot. It's the best thing for the team, so I am glad to do it.
"We need help at linebacker, so the coaches asked me and I said no problem."
Turner, now a 230-pounder, played some linebacker in high school, but not enough to really matter at this stage of the game.
"I didn't play much LB in high school, but I knew then I liked it. I like the physical part of football and there is no position more physical than linebacker," he noted.
He believes his experience at tailback will help him become a better linebacker in time.
"I'm on the other side of the gate now," he continued. "I believe having played tailback will allow me to read opposing running backs more quickly. I know their body language and their steps and what they are going to do. I think my anticipation of where a play may go should be good once I get the hang of all the linebacker techniques."
In preseason workouts, Antonio is playing behind fellow sophomore Quentin Taylor, who backed up Kelvin Robinson last season as a true freshman.
"I'm behind Quentin and it's a healthy situation," Turner noted. "He's my roommate, my teacher and my competitor. It's all working our real well right now. He has helped me a lot already with my techniques and in teaching me the linebacker responsibilities in the 4-3 defense."
Turner said since he has learned of his position change he has tried to put on quality weight and has successfully added 10 pounds to his frame.
"Lots of boost shakes and health bars," he laughed. "I'm carrying the weight well and still moving good."
He feels his strengths as a player should translate well into him playing LB.
"As I said, I'm a physical player. I'm also fast to the ball and I have good instincts in general in the game of football. My hips are pretty good too. All those things will help me be a good linebacker, I believe."
The toughest part?
"Well, I haven't done it yet, but I'm sure the hardest part will be learning how to take on 300-pound offensive linemen. There are techniques you have to use - you can't just run up in there and take them on. You have to use good technique to get an advantage," he explained. "It's kind of strange. The offensive linemen used to be my buddies when they were opening holes for me, now they are the enemy."
His fresh start at linebacker will be mirrored by the fresh start of having a new LB coach in David Saunders, who recently replaced Shawn Slocum on the Rebel staff as the LB mentor.
"Coach Saunders is new. I'm new. We're learning together and that's kind of cool," he stated. "He's a great guy and a great teacher of the fundamentals of the position. He's having patience with me, which I need right now."
In three short months, Turner has gone from the hunted to the hunter. He likes it.
"I never minded the punishment running backs get, but it will be fun to dish some of it out for a change," he added.
Antonio's goals for spring are elementary, literally.
"I just want to learn the basics during spring and then evaluate myself as a linebacker when spring is over so I will know what I need to work on in the offseason and next August," Turner closed. "It will be a slow learning process, but there's no better time than spring training."
The Rebels begin spring practice March 6.
Antonio Turner moved to LB
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