VandyMania Interview: David Turner (Part I)

Vanderbilt recruiting coordinator David Turner wore a huge smile on Wednesday. Not only had the Commodores culminated the recruiting process with 19 signees... seven of those were defensive linemen, the position coached by Turner. In Part 1 of this two-part interview, Turner shares several behind-the-scenes anecdotes regarding the 2004 recruiting class.

VandyMania: David, looking at this list of signees, it kind of looks like either you or Coach Bruce Fowler must have gone to Bobby Johnson and said, "Get me some defensive linemen!!!" Is that kind of how it happened?

Coach David Turner: (Laughing) Well, not quite! I mean, Coach Johnson, he's pretty perceptive too, you know. No, obviously that was one of our needs. To preface what I'm about to say, the previous staff had been a 3-4 defense, and we switched to a 4-3. Obviously when we got here, we were already thin at that position. Last year, we said we were going to sign four guys, and we ended up with two. Then we lost one senior (Libnir Telusca), and I've lost two more to suspension right now. So it's a situation where we were thin and got thinner. To be honest, we kind of got a good run on defensive linemen this year. We didn't go out with the intention of signing seven, it just happened. We said we would probably sign four or five, and ended up with seven. So finally, we get a little depth there. One key for us is that we need to get a whole lot better on defense at every position. Competition at every position is the only way you get better, and the only way you get competition is to build quality depth. You go out and recruit some guys who can come in and play, it makes the players you have get a little better, and those guys coming in, they have to compete to get some playing time. Of the ten [defensive linemen] that I've got, I'm going to lose six in two years. So we're gonna be thin again. But some of those guys we signed can come in and be no worse than third-team, right off the bat. Some might even be second-team.

VM: Lamar Divens did a flip-flop on you-- what's the inside story on that?

Coach David Turner: Well, he committed early, then he changed his mind and decided to go to Ole Miss. Then, I think for some of the same reasons he committed to us earlier started to reappear in his mind. He decided Vanderbilt is probably the better place for me. I don't know if it was any one thing. The last conversation I had with him before he called to say he was re-thinking it was, he was going to Ole Miss and he was set. We wished him luck and went on about our way. A week or so later, he calls and says he's re-thinking it! Obviously we didn't feel any different about it. The only matter was, did we still have a scholarship? And Coach said, yeah. So we said, hey, we still want you! I guess when he thought about it, Ole Miss was about a three-hour drive for him, and we're about an hour. He's a Tennessee guy, and the chance to play defense I think was big too. Ole Miss was talking to him more about offense. In his heart he wanted to play defense, which was why I got involved recruiting him. Coach Caldwell was recruiting him because that's his area, but I got involved because we wanted him as a defensive lineman. Maybe more than anything, it was a matter of him feeling comfortable and playing defense.

VM: You get to look at tape and film on all these guys... some of these guys like Brad Allen, everybody knew about. But is there anyone in this class is a guy where you guys are kind of slapping yourselves and saying, we stole this guy, and nobody else really found out about him!

Coach David Turner: I don't know if there's any one guy we can say we stole, and nobody knew about him. Moreso this year than the last two years I've been here, a lot of these guys had a lot of other options. We beat some pretty good schools on some guys. We felt that was important... each year our talent base has to get better and better. A lot of these guys had some SEC and ACC and Big XII schools they were looking at. Vanderbilt is a great sell... great academics, a chance to play in the SEC. But I don't know if there's anyone we felt was a steal. Probably the one who's made the biggest splash in all of this is Chris Nickson. He had Alabama, Auburn, Southern Miss, Mississippi State. Alabama and Auburn wanted him to play either DB or wide receiver. Chris wants to be a quarterback. He's been a pretty good one in high school. He fits in our offensive scheme, and he can do some good things in our offense. We offered him as a quarterback, and more than anything else, I think that's where he wanted to play. For us to get the Alabama Mr. Football is a pretty big deal. That may have made the biggest splash, but I don't know if anyone was really overlooked out of our class.

VM: Were you pretty sure Chris was coming on Signing Day, or were you sweating him out?

Coach David Turner: Me personally? I sweat 'em all out! I was sweating Chris, because I know the climate in Alabama. That kid was under a lot of pressure. And he handled it great. Chris is a pretty smart and intuitive guy. He understood what he was doing coming to Vanderbilt. Alabama had offered him, Auburn had offered him. He came for all the right reasons. The political pressure that he withstood down there, none of us know. And it wasn't as bad as it could have been because of how he handled it. I have a lot of respect for him. If he comes and never plays a down for us, I have a lot of respect for how he handled himself. What he wanted to do, deep down in his heart, was to have a chance to play quarterback in the SEC. We provided him that opportunity.

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