A Tale of Two Turners

It's less than 48 hours until national signing day and defensive ends are in short supply. That list got shorter with word that Brentwood Academy defensive end Barry Turner has committed to Nebraska.

Turner's decision comes as something of a surprise since he rated his official visit to Tennessee (Jan. 17) as "perfect" but there were prevailing circumstances which render his choice as less than shocking and may suggest at something far more sinister.

Turner was considering Vanderbilt as well as UT and Nebraska among his finalists. Some might argue, with good reason, that it's a virtual impossibility to grow up in Tennessee and like both Vandy and UT given that the schools are longtime rivals with a history of acrimony. Therefore, it could be stated with a substantial degree validity that anyone from Tennessee claiming to like both the Dores and Vols is really a closet Vanderbilt fan who simply lacks the fortitude to admit it. That is to say they secretly pull for Vanderbilt but don't want to endure the ridicule that comes from backing such a woeful football program, that has suffered through absolute dominance in the series against the hated Volunteers.

If they were convinced Vandy was going to turn things around they would probably commit to the Dores. However most prospects with high ambition and a desire to win would find it hard to hitch their star to the Commodores wagon, after all this is a team that hasn't enjoyed a winning season in 23 years and is a perennial doormat in the highly competitive SEC East.

An excellent argument could be made that another Turner suffered from that very same syndrome. Like Barry, Patrick Turner was from the Nashville area and often worked out on the Vanderbilt campus. He listed Vandy as one of the teams he was interested in early on before deciding on USC. It could be fairly stated that Patrick is a closet Vanderbilt fan, but he wasn't about to go through that Dore when it came to choosing a college. Since he couldn't help Vanderbilt he may have chosen the next best thing — to hurt Tennessee. If that was the case it worked because wide receivers are also in short supply in the Class of 2005 and the Vols haven't signed one in the last two classes.

Patrick first chose to do just that by ignoring Tennessee, saying he wasn't interested and wouldn't take a visit to Knoxville. Perhaps he later realized he was going about things in the wrong way since it doesn't hurt nearly as much to lose a player you never had. So he takes a visit to the Hill and inches toward a commitment to UT before making a sudden reversal at about the same time Vol fans are sizing him up for an orange jersey.

Horse hockey you say? Out of control paranoia? Lunacy in the form of whacked out theory?

Perhaps, but what is an opinion column for if you can't be paranoid or float some controversial theories. Sure, I'm willing to give both Turners the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they really liked what they saw at UT, but just couldn't bring themselves to go there given their allegiance to the black and gold. Maybe their decisions were more a subconscious process as opposed to an orchestrated conspiracy.

I will even allow that both Turners went through the courtship with the very best of intentions and took identical actions after thoughtful consideration.

Of course, if you believe that you might be a closet Vanderbilt fan, too.

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