Turner Turns It On

Those who watched Oderick Turner catch 44 passes and a team-high eight touchdowns last season probably wondered why the redshirt sophomore wideout wasn't paired with senior Derek Kinder when the Pitt football team began training camp workouts some two weeks ago.

However, when Kinder went down with a season-ending knee injury after less than a week, there was Oderick Turner pressing for his No. 1 spot.

"Basically I had to realize that the other guys were coming for (my starting spot), so I had to get that in my mind,'' Turner said. "I did get a little complacent for a little while, but everything's back how it used to be now.

"Everybody is playing real good, so we don't want to get outshined by anybody else. And that makes the position better, too. So, we're going to go out and work hard every day, all of us, and for the wide receivers to be the best.''

Turner was quite a find for Pittsburgh last fall. As Kinder emerged as the No. 1 receiver and big-play threat, opposing defenses worked him over at the line and double-covered him all the way downfield. That allowed Turner to roam free on occasion and enhance his confidence with every reception.

During the Panthers' final six games, against stiffer competition, Turner caught 24 passes and scored five touchdowns. And he has displayed that same big-play ability during the past week or so in camp practices. Turner has gone across the middle with reckless abandon to catch a pass, and he also has leaped over a defender in the end zone when a score was needed.

"We have to step up not that Kinder went down, and there's a lot of slack to pick up for that,'' Turner said. "We realize what we have to do. We really don't have a choice. We have to pick up for Derek being gone and make the plays that he would have made. That's the way we have to do it.

"It hurt bad when Derek went down. We're all real close, on and off the field, and he was the undisputed leader of the group. So, seeing him go down really hurt everybody, and we were set back in the beginning. But since then, especially in the past few practices, we have really picked it up.''

Pitt receivers coach Aubrey Hill, a pretty fair wideout himself at Florida with a touchdown ever fifth reception in his career, believed that Turner had the ability to take his game to another level this season.

"Oderick had a good first year, but we expect even more from him this season,'' Hill said. "We have a plan for him to improve his game, and it'll happen if he works hard and does what we tell him.''

Hill told Turner, listed at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, to be a more physical player and run sharper routes. Occasionally, Turner has had lapses in concentration, but he appears to be more focused and confident this year.

"Coach says that he has confidence in me, that I could do it, but I just needed to worry about my game more and not what everybody else was doing,'' Turner said. "So, that's what I wanted to do this camp. I got a slow start, but I'm back to playing the way I should be. I just have to keep it up.''

Even though the group is missing its leader and top player in Kinder, there are those who believe that Pitt's wideout corps -- Turner, redshirt junior Marcel Pestano, redshirt sophomore Cedric McGee, sophomore Tamarcus Turner and freshmen Aundre Wright and Maurice Williams -- can be the best group the Panthers have had in years. And there were some good ones when Pitt was dubbed Wide Receiver U. by then coach Walt Harris.

"I would hope that the younger guys would look to me to see how it's done here, because that's the same thing I did to the veterans when I came in here,'' Turner said. "You don't realize it at the time, but a young player takes what he sees from the older guys and follows that. So, you have to go hard and give great effort all the time.

"But we have a good group of receivers here, a real good group, and we have a great coach in Coach Hill. He works us hard, but he also jokes around with us. He's fun to be around, and it's a real comfortable environment here with Coach Hill. We all like him a lot. He played the game and knows what he's talking about, but we think we can be better than he was.''

And with Turner back on track, there's a good chance that can happen.

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