Turner, A Tough Qb To Read

College Football Maryland

April 25, 2009|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,kevin.vanvalkenburg@baltsun.com

COLLEGE PARK -This is a common first impression people have when they meet Maryland quarterback Chris Turner: typical California kid, probably a surfer or a skateboarder, easygoing attitude, perfectly embodied by his wild, curly blond hair that can be spotted from halfway across campus.

This is what most people figure out if they spend a few minutes with him: Yes, he is a California kid at heart, but he has never been a surfer or a skateboarder. Sure, he's easygoing, but underneath that laid-back demeanor is a burning desire to win.

This, though, is what you might see from Turner if you attend Maryland's Red and White game Saturday at Byrd Stadium, the final scrimmage of spring practice before his senior year: a bunch of wild passes, a few missed reads, some shoddy mechanics and possibly a head-scratching interception or two.

This is the best explanation for why: For some reason, Turner seems to play his best when it counts - and his worst when it doesn't. He has started 20 games in his career, has a strong and accurate arm, and shows considerable poise in the pocket. His 2,516 passing yards last year are the fifth-highest single-season total in school history.

And yet for some reason, he simply isn't very good in practice. If injuries hadn't cleared the way for him his sophomore year, thrusting him into action when coach Ralph Friedgen had no other options, it's possible we would have never seen Turner show that he is truly skilled at playing quarterback.

This is what Turner has done in seven career games against Top 25 opponents, other than going 5-1 as a starter: He has completed 143 of 225 passes (63.6 percent) for 1,636 yards, thrown nine touchdown passes and just two interceptions, and, in the six starts, averaged 247.8 yards.

This is how many players - besides Turner - Friedgen has had over his 30-year coaching career who were awful practice players but stellar in games: zero.

"It's taken me awhile to get used to," Friedgen said. "He's different from me in that I'm probably a little more emotional than he is. He's pretty go-with-the-flow. And that's his greatest strength and maybe his greatest weakness. The bottom line is, he plays well in games. ... To me, though, he's got to do a better job with being a leader. I haven't been pleased with that aspect from him just yet."

This is what Turner says when asked about what he thinks about his coach questioning his leadership: "I understand where he's coming from with that. I feel the same way. This is my fifth year, my third year playing, and we're a young team. We're looking for leadership, and I'm the quarterback. I'm the obvious answer for that. It's something I'm trying to grow into."

This is what Turner thinks most people don't understand about him: There are multiple aspects of his personality.

"I'm not always chill, like I am right now," he says. "I'm very competitive when I'm on the field. There are times when I'll just snap. [Laid-back] might be who I am, but I'm also a football player. I've worked really hard in the weight room and the film room to get to where I am."

This is the last time Turner says he can remember feeling truly nervous during a football game: "When I was a sophomore in high school, I was on JV, and halfway through the season, the varsity quarterback went down," said Turner, who played for Chaminade High and was also recruited by Louisville, Boise State, Oregon, Utah and Texas Tech. "They just threw me in the varsity game against Valencia High School ... kind of a powerhouse out in California. I remember being nervous then. It got pretty ugly, to be honest. Ever since then, I've always thought to myself, 'It can't get worse than that.' "

This is what helped Turner decide he was going to sign with Maryland out of high school: While most high school players dream of a career in the NFL, he has always been more interested in politics.

"I've always been drawn to politics," said Turner, who hopes to get an internship on Capitol Hill next semester. "I was nerdy about it, even in high school. A lot of my friends were turned off by how I always wanted to read more about it. But it's who I am. I just love it."

This is who was less than thrilled when Turner - after listening to bands like Bad Religion and NOFX sing about social issues - started to gravitate toward liberal causes and ideals: his father, John Turner, the original drummer in the 1980s big hair metal band Ratt.

"I think he was probably pretty annoyed with it," said Turner, who considered volunteering for Barack Obama's presidential campaign last fall. "My dad is a pretty conservative guy. I know he's annoyed with it now, especially since [my side] finally won an election. It's interesting to argue with your parents because their focus is different. They want a job that pays the bills and they want to put a roof over your head. But I'm an idealist and I want different things. ... I want to be involved."

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