Nolan Turner wanted to wait until he was completely healthy to get back out on the field.
Clemson’s super senior safety dealt with a partially torn hamstring in camp.
While he was trying to get back as quickly as possible, Turner told reporters during Monday’s media availability, that he just wasn’t at a place where he thought he could play at a high level during Clemson’s first two games.
“I just wanted to be safe,” he said Monday. “It’s a long season, just making sure we get back healthy to where I can play and play well. Feeling great now.”
Turner approximates that he suffered the hamstring injury about 4-5 practices into camp, so he missed the majority of Clemson’s fall practices. Though Turner wasn’t able to get those live reps, he had time to get his body right, get some mental reps in, and help some of the younger guys come along.
He was finally able to get back on the field in Clemson’s 14-8 win over Georgia Tech.
“It was great. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to go out there and just play football. I missed a lot of camp,” Turner said. “I just hated not being out there with the guys, putting in a bunch of preparation for Georgia all through the summer and spring and everything, and then not getting to play is tough. But, those guys did a great job of being prepared out there and playing. It’s just nice to get to play football again.”
Turner stepped back into a defense that hadn’t allowed an offensive touchdown through two games and helped continue that trend Saturday.
“It’s inspiring. I think it’s been 71 years since a Clemson defense hasn’t given up a touchdown in the first three games,” Turner said. “It’s been fun to be a part of, fun to watch. It’s just very physical, relentless defense, very detailed too.”
Turner has seen the unit really grow up and mature over the last year.
“From a defensive standpoint, our biggest growing pain was the Ohio State game,” he said. “Because otherwise, I think last year we played really good football as a defense. We had some growing up to do. That Ohio State game was kind of a gut check…
“We addressed that all spring, all summer. Then, our biggest thing was coming out, being a tough, physical, detailed defense. Week 1, we showed that. We’ve just been trying to build on that the last couple of weeks. Really just attacking those weaknesses that we had and addressing them was the biggest thing. It’s been nice to see that growth and development thus far in the season.”
Speaking of that, Turner is like having another coach out on the field. He’s leaned into a mentoring role and he’s been able to take players like true freshman safety Andrew Mukuba under his wing and show him the way.
When Mukuba first arrived at Clemson as a mid-year enrollee, he came in not knowing much, as far as Clemson’s defense is concerned. Still, he was a top safety recruit and an exceptional athlete at that. According to Turner, Mukuba was honest with him. He wanted to play, but he didn’t know anything just yet. He needed Turner’s help in picking up the defense.
So the two went into the facility with one another. Turner said they would start off breaking down concepts, breaking down schemes.
“If you get this big picture stuff down early, all these calls and details, everything else will start to make sense to you,” Turner said. “I’m just trying to get him to think the right way. He kind of progressed throughout the spring and started to get the Georgia game plan down and started to get the calls, getting familiar with how the games flow…with him coming in and seeking out help, it’s a testament to who he is. Just the maturity from a young player, trying to grow and develop and get better.”
Now, the two are starting with each other in Clemson’s defensive backfield.