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Thursday, April 03, 2008

While Isaiah Bell and Teric Jones are "under the radar" "sleepers" at this point in time, Justin Turner is "wicked sweet" and "maybe the best prospect in Ohio." He's currently #42 in the Rivals 100, and #137 at Scout. ESPN has him on their watch list for their top 150, saying thusly($):

Great blend of size and speed at defensive back and possesses a coveted frame for a cover corner. ... Very athletic in deep coverage with proper positioning, good range and ball skills. Excellent leaper who knows how to high-point the football. ... Turner is blessed with great athleticism and could be molded into a good corner at the next level, particularly in zone schemes, but his measurables, range and physicality are exciting when projecting as a college safety.
Turner's a generic DB, I guess; with the commitment of Bell I've moved turner to corner on the board. If Turner can be an effective corner with his size (6'2") he's a potential high first round draft pick and All-American. Hey, take it from him:
Amazingly enough, Turner never played cornerback until last season. However, the switch from safety to cornerback proved to be almost flawless, as he finished with a team-best three interceptions to go with four pass break-ups, a forced fumble, 32 solo tackles and 12 assisted stops. He added five tackles for loss and a quarterback pressure.
“All of these coaches, they like big corners,” Turner said. “You really don’t see 6-3 corners. The corners are usually 5-10, 6-foot. Once they see a 6-3 corner on the field with good footwork, I think it catches their eyes.”
The same article notes offers from Michigan, Ohio State, MSU, Illinois, Pitt, and West Virginia as of a couple weeks ago and states M, OSU, and ZookU were recruiting him as a corner. SI's Andy Staples mentioned him in an early look at 2009's top prospects:
Justin Turner from Massillon (Ohio), has safety size (6-2, 190) and cornerback speed. He's also an excellent kick returner.
The ESPN scouting report also mentioned he could be a special teams "stud" -- ooh la la -- FWIW. Michigan will be spoilt for choice on kick returners in the near future.

Other stuff:
  • There's an interview with Turner on what looks like a school-sponsored site devoted to Massillon basketball; in it you can discover his love for math, Madden, and spaghetti.
  • Fluff article from, from his sophomore year.
  • Tremendously long article from "Massillon Proud" after his freshman year. Mom, though misguided in her college preferences, is hard on him about grades:

    “Grades is a number one priority and he must maintain a certain grade point average in the classroom. If he does not, there will be a problem,” she said. “If he does not meet standards, he will lose some privileges such as no Playstation. Grades are #1.”

    “Right now, he has maintained a 3.0 average. When we went to parent-teacher conferences, his teachers all had good praise for him.”

    No playstation! Monster! Also, probably no issues with qualifying.
  • Scouting Ohio, as per usual, has highlights.

Editorial Opinion: It's never bad to pick up a top 50 player, especially from Ohio, and it's good that Turner was quickly reassured about Michigan after the coaching switch. If Turner can hack it as a cornerback he's got NFL all-pro protential (obviously that's way, way off).

Potentially interesting side notes: after a huge post-Marlin-Jackson drought on top corner prospects this is the third year in a row Michigan's picked up a blue chip at the position. And of Michigan's 11 under Rodriguez, six are from Ohio. This shouldn't come as a surprise since Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida (where he's also had good success) were Rodriguez's main stomping grounds at WVU. Pennsylvania's lagging a bit here.

Finally, an update on Isaiah Bell. Helpful readers point out that ESPN just slapped up an evaluation of Bell, placing them on their top 150 watch list and gushing:
I don't know if the "I" in Isaiah stands for interception or the "B" in Bell means big playmaker, but one thing for certain, this guy is a good football player. He shows outstanding ball skills and at 6'2" and two hundred pounds he is a big safety. Rules the secondary as a free safety. ... A magnificent kickoff return specialist. ... Bell will be a big time player at a big time college.
Emphasis mine, cause, like, dude. ESPN's entry into college recruiting has been interesting contrast with Scout and Rivals. The latter are generally rah rah about everything and anyone; ESPN takes a much more critical look at players in their scouting reports. I've never seen anything so cheerleadery from them. Two possibilities: this guy will fly up recruiting boards or ESPN just hired a new guy who doesn't quite get it.

There's also this from Duane Long, now an analyst at Bucknuts:
29. **** Isaiah Bell (6-2, 215, S; Youngstown Liberty)

Simply put, Isaiah Bell is the best safety nobody is talking about.

He has the instincts of a linebacker against the run and is a very good sized safety. The 6-2, 215 pounds seems a bit on the small side. He looks to be a bigger kid but Liberty head coach Jeff Whitaker reports accurate heights and weights.

Bell has the wingspan of a lineman. In fact, I would not be surprised if he ends up growing into a linebacker. He has a nice frame and I have noticed these long limbed kids tend to fill out a good bit. He is big enough to take on blockers and still make plays but he is fast enough to make plays in the open field. Once he finds the ball, he closes like nobody’s business.

But Bell has such tremendous ball skills that he could just as easily be a free safety. He has the best ball skills I have seen from a projected safety in this class.

He returned two interceptions for scores last year, including one for 102 yards, and one punt. He has more return yards off of interceptions, punts and kickoff returns than any player in this top 100.
Maybe Michigan got their teeth into a real player before he got a lot of attention?