South Carolina junior running back A.J. Turner might have to be known as South Carolina junior defensive back for the rest of the season.
Turner, who has started 11 games at running back in his career, practiced with the Gamecocks defense on Tuesday.
“AJ. Turner is going to rep at nickel back for us this week,” head coach Will Muschamp said. “On special teams, you see that instinctively he’s able to make plays and feel blocks. He has the ability to be a good man coverage guy so we are going to give him the opportunity to play on the defensive side of the ball this week.”
Turner is fourth on the team in rushing this season with 294 yards on 46 carries. He led the Gamecocks in rushing last year with 531 yards and has 1,322 for his career.
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“A.J. has been kidding with me for three years about playing defense,” Muschamp said. “It’s nothing that he has not done at running back, but there’s an opportunity for him to help us this week on defense, and we’ll see how it goes moving forward. A.J. is extremely bright. He will learn it.”
Turner and fellow junior running backs Rico Dowdle, Ty’Son Williams and Mon Denson all are returning next season, and Muschamp indicated Turner’s move to defense could become permanent next season, depending on the Gamecocks depth needs.
“This is something that we’ve talked about before with the staff, so we’ll see what’s best for our football team and what’s best for A.J.,” Muschamp said.
Muschamp and the South Carolina defensive coaching staff have considered moving offensive players to defense for weeks as injuries continue to mount on the defensive side of the ball. The Gamecocks have lost five safeties to long-term or season-ending injuries and three of the team’s top four defensive linemen will be out until at least the bowl game due to injuries.
Tight end Kiel Pollard said he hasn’t been asked to play defense.
“He hasn’t come to me yet, but I would,” Pollard said. “I’d be happy to play defense. Probably linebacker.”