NDSU offensive lineman Turner uses size, speed
FARGO -- A couple of North Dakota State assistant football coaches were evaluating prospects in the Twin Cities a while back when they came across an offensive lineman from Mounds View. As part of the recruiting process, offensive line coach Scott Fuchs stopped by the school.
He first saw Billy Turner playing dodgeball in a physical education class. If the possibility of playing football for a living doesn't pan out, Turner could always start a dodgeball league.
"That was his game," Fuchs said. "He was real agile, and he could throw that thing."
Yes, the North Dakota State offensive lineman is about as athletic as they come for a 6-foot-6, 314-pound young man. He has quick feet for his size, has the kind of mobility that has made pro scouts take notice and has a right arm that can throw a ball a country mile.
He may have the best arm on the team in terms of who can throw the ball the farthest. Head coach Craig Bohl said Turner can toss it farther than starting quarterback Brock Jensen.
"I've seen him throw it over 60 yards and he can probably throw it farther than that," said sophomore offensive guard Zack Johnson. "It's impressive. If all of our quarterbacks went down, I would vote for him for quarterback."
Said Bohl: "He's really a gifted athlete. I joked, 'We're going to do a tackle-around pass. I don't know if you can do that, you probably can't do it, but he has great feet and he's a smart player.' "
For the record, Turner said he doesn't know how far he can throw it because he hasn't tried to do that in a while.
In high school baseball, Turner said his fastball was clocked at over 90 mph. But don't look for North Dakota State head baseball coach Tod Brown to try and get him to pitch for the Bison, because control was usually a problem.
"I miss baseball, but I didn't have the confidence to play that game," Turner said. "I could throw hard, but that was about it. I definitely scared a lot of people when I got on the mound."
Not many college football defensive linemen around would admit they're scared to face Turner. At the least, however, it's a formidable task.
He was named the Missouri Valley Football Conference Offensive Lineman of the Week for his performance in NDSU's 24-21 win at Kansas State. He graded out at a 96 percent success rate with 10 knockdowns in a coaching evaluation. He did not give up a single quarterback hurry or sack in front of Jensen, who was 21 of 30 passing, including 7 of 7 on the game-winning drive.
Bohl said Turner is playing the best football of his career, which is what any coach would want out of a senior. He burst onto the Bison scene as a rare true freshman to start on the offensive line, and he hasn't disappointed on his potential.
If there is any temptation for him to look past his senior year and glance at his NFL stock, he's not buying into it.
"He's not putting himself or his thoughts of post-NDSU ahead of our team goals or anything like that," Fuchs said. "I know that for a fact."
The website Optimum Scouting, for instance, this week penned Turner as a possible late-round draft pick. Pro scouts have been regular visitors around NDSU in the last month, "but as far as I'm concerned," Turner said, "I'm practicing the same and playing the game the same, so I guess they'll see what they want to see. I'm approaching everything like I did the last three years."
His football lineage has been well documented starting with his father Maurice Turner, who played five years in the NFL as a running back with the Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers and New York Jets.
His two brothers both played in college -- Maurice Turner at Northern Iowa and Bryan Kehl Line at Brigham Young. Line was drafted by the New York Giants but didn't make the team.
They all scored a touchdown in college -- except Billy, so far.
"I keep telling people to watch out, I'm going to score one this year," Billy said.
Considering his size and quickness, there's probably no reason to doubt him.