It’s not easy for any football program to let go of an offensive weapon like Alvin Kamara, but Tennessee is dipping into the same home state as the former Vol in pursuit of paralleled talent Christian Turner.
The 5-foot-10, 190-pound running back, who possesses a body frame similar to that of Kamara’s, took his first trip to Knoxville last month after receiving an offer from the Orange & White on Feb. 9.
“I’ve been hearing lot of great things about Tennessee,” Turner said. “So I decided to come see it for myself, and everything lived up to the expectations.”
It was around last fall that the Volunteers' coaching staff started reaching out to Turner, and he's been building a relationship with Tennessee running backs coach Robert Gillespie ever since.
“I’ve been talking to coach Gillespie a lot,” the Buford (Ga.) High School junior said.
“Not just coaching-wise, he’s a great person in general. He’s the kind of guy I know I can go to if I need anything. So I want a bonding relationship, not just a coach-player relationship. So I know I can talk to him on a personal level.”
Though he’d already heard good things about Rocky Top, it made all the difference getting to experience Tennessee's campus first-hand.
“To me, it was the facilities that we saw, and we didn’t really get to go inside the new dorms but we saw them,” Turner said when asked what impressed him most. “And coach Gillespie was talking to me about how they take care of the players here, so that's great. (Neyland Stadium) was amazing, as I hear that a lot, but it was great to see it for myself.
“Seeing it for myself — seeing the stadium and the fan base — it’s one of the best fan bases I’ve ever seen.”
Last year, the speedster managed to exceed 1,000 rushing yards in spite of an injury early into his 2016 season. Over half of those yards were racked up in the playoffs, too.
“I had nine touchdowns in the playoffs alone with 600 yards. So my season really started later on when I got to help my team," Turner said.
With his size and skillset, the tailback identifies with Kamara’s explosive style of play.
“I was just watching (Kamara’s) highlight tapes before I came here,” Turner said. “Seeing his play style and stuff like that and how he works with Tennessee and how they run the ball with him in, I think I can fit that.
“I think the coaches see something in me after watching my film. Whatever aspect it is I think they see something that I could contribute to the team.”
The Class of 2018 prospect comes out of the same high school as Tennessee sophomore defensive linemen Quay Picou and Austin Smith. For Turner, that familiarity is an advantage for Tennessee in his recruitment.
“I was with (Smith) my freshman year so they kind of took me under my wing when I came here at first," Turner said.
“It is (helpful) because if I have any questions, I can go to someone personally that I know, and he speaks highly of the school. So it helps knowing someone who is actually at the school, who has all the experiences and stuff. I can go to him and ask him a question about anything.”
Rocky Top marks the first campus visit in 2017 for Turner, who received an influx of nearly 15 offers in the month of February alone.
“This is actually my first trip so far for this year,” he said. “I know I’m going to go to N.C. State, going to go take a visit there. And a lot of the new offers that I’ve had — Missouri and stuff like that. I’d like to go see for myself what they have to offer, but Tennessee is definitely up there.”
While he has taken several unofficial visits to schools such as Miami, Michigan State, North Carolina and South Carolina, Turner identified Tennessee as one of the standout schools thus far.
“I don’t really have a No. 1 right now, but (Tennessee’s) definitely going to be one of my top schools,” said Turner, who also included N.C. State.
With 25 offers to comb through and the potential to receive even more, he maintains an open-minded attitude during the process. However, the Buford, Georgia, native did mention a tentative goal for a commitment date.
“I’m just going to see which blessings I’ll have coming over the next coming weeks, and I’ll decide where I think I’ll fit best,” he said. “I think that’s going to be how it will end up going. I plan to be, I’d say, committed (hopefully) by spring, but I’m not really closing any recruitment down right now so I’m fully open.
“I’d like to be committed before the season starts. But as I said before, if it doesn’t go that way, I might just (commit) during the season or after the season. So I’m fine with that; it’s just a goal of mine.”
Turner plans on attending the DISH Orange & White spring game on April 22.