ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Competing for a job will not be a problem for Christian Turner. For Turner, a 3-star Michigan signee from the Atlanta suburbs, playing football and earning a spot in the lineup isn’t solely about competition.
Getting reps at running back is about unselfishness, and what he can gain from each situation he is in at the position.
“It shows you if you’re playing for a team you don’t want to be just a specific position or just be known as a running back,” Turner told Land of 10 in December. “You want to be a player who can help the team the most or can contribute in any way possible.”
Turner is a 5-foot-11, 185-pound running back who ran for 801 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2017. Land of 10 caught up with Buford High running backs coach Fyrone Davis to find out what Turner will bring to the Wolverines.
Q. Christian has been praised for being unselfish, and it’s something he takes pride in. How does that help him as a running back and as a teammate?
Davis: In today’s game, it helps you to be unselfish because there are so many backs across the country. The game is so physical today that you need to be unselfish, so you can learn and grow. At Buford High School, we share the football here, so that attitude of being unselfish is expected. That’s what we teach here to our players. It also comes from Christian’s family, who have made him into an unselfish young man.
Q. Christian was on a team with multiple running backs at Buford, and he goes into a similar situation at Michigan. Is it safe to say he has prepared for the situation, and how?
Davis: He’s dealt with it for the last four years. He’s going to be a humble young man and try to learn from the older guys and see where he fits, and see where he operates daily. He won’t have an issue with being in a big group of running backs.
Q. Christian committed to Michigan in April of last year. Why did he make that decision so early?
Davis: He went there and fell in love with what Jim Harbaugh offered. He took a couple visits before, and he called me on a visit and said, “I’m home. I’m done. I don’t have to go anywhere else, and I’m committed and good with this.”
Q. What was it that made you realize, Christian has a chance to be a college football player?
Davis: I started watching him when he was 12, in youth football. I knew then he had a chance to be a good football player, but as a ninth grader, the first play he made was a kickoff return for at least 90 yards and he returned it for a touchdown, during a ninth-grade game. It was as fluid and as physical a play I’d ever seen, and I knew then he’d be special.
Q. How would you describe him to someone who has never watched him play football?
Davis: When you see him, I always tell people he reminds me of Barry Sanders, how he moves out of the hole, how he shifts, his vision, his instincts. He’s a strong-minded kid. He protects well. He’s kind of put together. You’re going to be looking at a real dude when Christian gets there.
Q. What does it take to defend against a player like Christian?
Davis: You’d better stay in your gaps and in your lane. That’s when I tell all guys when we watch film. I tell the guys who play safety, those guys had better hit well and they’d better hit him. You’d better be well-prepared when you tackle Christian.
Q. When you first met Christian, what stood out about him as a person?
Davis: His work ethic. The first thing I saw when he was 12, is the way he was grinding and sweating. That was the most impressive thing I’ve seen in a long time. He was all about his business and his craft, and he was 12. I knew then that he was a dynamic runner. I even thought, he’s going to be special.
Q. When you first worked with him as a football player, what also stood out?
Davis: What stood out was his physicality. His feet were so good in the hole and from him understanding what he had. His football IQ stood out to me, too. He’s a phenomenal student in the classroom, too. It’s understanding football, understanding the fronts, knowing how to read defenses and coverage and knowing his aiming point and his awareness. That’s what I talk about with a guy who knows football. And he’s a guy who questions something when it’s not right. He will say, “explain this to me.”
Q. Is there a signature Christian Turner moment that you can think of? A play in a game, or something that happened in a classroom?
Davis: His junior year, we were playing Carrollton High School. He had a run of about 70 or 80 yards, and it was freaky. He was turning the corner, getting on the perimeter, running, spinning, going fast and even vertical. I can still see that run today. We won that game, and he ran for 268 yards, but when I look at him, the first thing I think about is that run.
Q. What do you think will help Christian be successful at the college level?
Davis: He’s a very humble guy, and staying humble will make him successful. Learning from the older guys and listening in film sessions and making sure he’s doing what he has to do, things like that will help him.