Mailbag: A look at Thad Turner

Reader Robert I hits the inbox with this today:

Hey DZ,

I did a little research on Thad Turner, the UDFA CB out of Ohio that the Colts signed. As you know, he is competing for a roster spot after Kevin Thomas went down in minicamp.

Well after reading Brett Mock’s great article on the camp battle between Brandon King and Thad Turner, I found a video on youtube where Turner does one-on-one drills against WR’s

I found a rather disturbing trend during the first half of the video. If you notice, when plays up in press man coverage, he always seems to extend his arm out and grab the receiver. The first couple of attempts a slightly subtle, but it gradually turns out to be almost flat out blatant. Just thought you might find it interesting as this may hurt his chances of making the roster.

Thanks for the email Robert.  First, you have to realize that there is no “illegal contact” penalty in NCAA football.  The defender can bump and touch the WR until the ball is in the air.  This is part of the reason you often see rookie corners get ‘grabby’.  They are used to being able to play WRs much more physically, and it often leads to them getting beat.  Even in the NFL, however, the corner is allowed to extend his arm to feel the wide out.  What he cannot do is grab the receiver, shove the receiver, or impede his progress.

I imagine that if you looked at the college tape on any of these young corners, you’d see similar techniques.  College corners are taught to maintain as much contact as possible with the recievers.  You can even hear him talk about it in the video, “Look how I try and squeeze my man to the sidelines,” he says.  He clearly gives guys shoves with his extended arm and also with his shoulders in an effort to move them off their route and more to the outside.  In the NFL this is illegal five yards beyond the line, but in the NCAA it is considered perfect technique right up until the ball is in the air.

This just illustrates how hard scouting is.  You have to judge players on their physical tools, recognizing that some of their techniques will be useless if not detrimental to life in the NFL.  A corner can press his man toward the sidelines, but he has to do so in much more subtle ways than a big shove with an outstretched arm 10 yards down field. The kind of manhandling Turner does in this video would draw all kinds of flags at the next level, but certainly does show his willingness to hit and be physical.  Those are the skills the Colts look for in a corner, even if they are applied differently in the pros.

In summary, the only thing you can take from this is that Thad Turner is a physical, fundamentally sound college corner who obviously applied his coaching well.  His extended arm is just a sign that he was doing exactly as he was told.