After coming on strong at the end of last season, Clemson’s coaching staff has continued to rave about Cole Turner.
“He’s going to be a good one,” head coach Dabo Swinney said earlier this spring.
And despite the redshirt freshman receiver having only played three games for the Tigers to this point, the comparisons have started flowing. None of them, at least publicly, have been made to his older brother, Nolan Turner, the former All-American safety at Clemson who’s now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Instead, when it comes to the younger Turner’s demeanor and approach to the game, his position coach, Tyler Grisham, said Cole reminds him of another former Clemson standout turned NFL player.
“I think what I really appreciate about him is it’s not too big for him,” Grisham said. “He doesn’t even really understand the seriousness and importance of that play or that you’re at Clemson. He just goes out and plays ball, and I love that.
“That’s kind of like (Hunter) Renfrow. Renfrow was very similar. He came up to me before the (national championship) game (in 2016), and he said, ‘Hey coach, I’m nervous.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, you should be. This is the national championship.’ But that was foreign to him, and I can appreciate guys like that that are just smooth and collected. That’s who (Turner) is.”
From a physical standpoint, the parallels are even loftier in the eyes of multiple members of Clemson’s coaching staff. Grisham initially hesitated to reveal it when pressed, but when told another staff member, Tajh Boyd, has likened Turner to that of former Clemson standout Deandre Hopkins, Grisham relented.
“You’ve already heard that, huh?” Grisham said with a smile. “I wasn’t going to say that here.”
Meanwhile, running backs coach C.J. Spiller said Turner’s 6-foot-1, 180-pound frame on the perimeter reminds him of former NFL All-Pro Ed McCaffrey, one of John Elway’s top targets when the two won three Super Bowls together with the Denver Broncos beginning in the late 1990s.
“But faster. That’s who he is,” Spiller said. “If he just puts his head down, he can be very special. But I can see Ed McCaffrey when you think about it. Very similar body types at this point.”
Grisham didn’t disagree with that comparison either.
“I like that,” Grisham said.
Turner is pushing for a starting job next season after catching eight passes for 161 yards in his limited playing time a year ago,. With Beaux Collins (shoulder) and Adam Randall (knee) limited this spring, Turner has gotten nearly all of the first-team reps at one of the outside receiver spots. But Grisham said Turner would’ve been getting his share of those reps anyway.
He’s made the most of them. Turner had a touchdown catch over cornerback Nate Wiggins in the Tigers’ first spring scrimmage, and Grisham said he’s continued to make contested catches when those opportunities have presented themselves.
“He’s done really well,” Grisham said. “He looks like a stronger player. Still room to grow. That’s an area I’ve really challenged him in, but he’s playing stronger. He’s playing fast. And he’s playing more confident.”
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