Clemson University

A look at the latest under-the-radar recruit to thrive for Clemson

Nolan Turner on becoming a bigger part of the Clemson defense

Safety has played well for Tigers in 2018
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Safety has played well for Tigers in 2018

Nolan Turner couldn’t help but be exposed to negative comments after he received a surprising scholarship offer from Clemson in January of 2016.

The safety was not on the radar of many schools when Dabo Swinney and then-defensive line coach Marion Hobby stopped by his high school in Alabama and delivered an offer late in the recruiting process after several Clemson defensive backs had either turned pro early or decided to transfer.

Turner, whose late father Kevin played with Swinney at Alabama, was considering walking on at either Clemson or for the Crimson Tide prior to receiving the scholarship offer from the Tigers.

“I was blown away,” Turner said Monday. “I didn’t see it coming.”

For a school that recruits at the level of Clemson, offering a scholarship to a player whose only other offer was from a UAB program that was about to start back up after canceling football did not go over well with all of the Clemson fan base.

There were those who said the prospect, who was not ranked by some recruiting services, was only offered because of Swinney’s relationship with Turner’s father, who died in March of 2016.

“After they offered me, I started doing a bunch of interviews and stuff and you see it on Twitter scrolling through,” Turner recalled. “People would be like, ‘Who is this kid? Why’d they offer him?’ ”

Now in his third year in Clemson’s program, Turner is proving that he belongs at this level.

The redshirt sophomore has played in all seven games and is becoming a valuable piece of Clemson’s secondary.

Turner has 14 tackles, including two tackles for loss, and Swinney said during his Sunday teleconference that Turner was “one of the best players on the field (Saturday).”

“From my mentality I expected to play,” Turner said. “I didn’t expect to come here and sit on the bench all four years. I expected to come and play.”

Clemson’s secondary was perhaps the biggest question mark entering the season, but the unit shut down the ACC’s leading passer Ryan Finley and N.C. State on Saturday.

Turner played 28 snaps in the top 20 matchup, recording three tackles and his first career pass breakup.

Turner has added experience to a secondary that is young but has grown up quickly in 2018.

“He’s impressed all of us, not just this past week. But he really had a great fall camp and knows what to do and is a good athlete and tackles well in space, can run,” Tigers defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “He’s a tough kid. You can coach him hard. Really been pleased with his development.”

The Tigers recruit at an elite level and consistently sign top 10 recruiting classes. But they have also done a good job of finding under-the-radar prospects, particularly in the secondary.

Ryan Carter did not have many offers before turning into Clemson’s No. 1 cornerback as a senior in 2017, while Venables joked Monday about how not many people wanted safety K’Von Wallace, who is fourth on Clemson’s team in tackles with 28.

Venables has excelled at seeing something in lightly recruited prospects and turning them into key contributors. Turner is the latest addition to the group.

“He played super fast and made plays on the ball. ... Whatever we’ve asked him to do he’s really done a great job,” Venables said. “He’s been an excellent special teams player as well, just a very reliable, consistent player. Those are your best players. Always. And the ones that you can trust that know what to do, play with effort, play with toughness. And you’ve got to have some ability as well. But he’s an ultra-consistent player who really fits our system.”

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