Kevin C. Cox
This is not the place to be if you want a little information about the Bulldogs' new tailback recruit. This is the place to come for too much information about him.
This evening Georgia picked up a big commitment from Orlando (Boone H.S.) tailback A.J. Turman. You may recall a while back that I looked at some of the various tailback recruits considering the Classic City Canines. At the time I knew that Turman had an offer from the Bulldogs, but it seemed far more likely that he would be staying in the state of Florida, either accepting an offer from Florida State or Miami. Turman had offers not only from those programs, but also Tennessee, Notre Dame and Wisconsin.
That offer list should tell you something about what kind of player the Bulldogs are getting in Turman. Those are not schools who run spread offenses or play basketball on grass. And Turman is not a scatback, mini back, or all purpose back. He is a solid 6'0 and 200 pounds, with 7 months left before he reports to campus. He's been a workhorse for Boone, rushing for 1511 yards as a sophomore, 1243 as a junior, and 1245 as a senior. He tallied 42 touchdowns as well. 247Sports ranks him the #13 tailback in the country and 22nd best player in the state of Florida. Rivals ranks him the 18th best running back in the land, and ESPN slots him 24th.
Let's take a look at some film, shall we?
This film is from Turman's junior season. It's pretty clear that Turman's what you'd call a "one cut and go" tailback. He doesn't spin or juke. He might throw a stiff arm here and there. But mostly Turman takes the handoff and gets upfield. He certainly breaks into the open field a good bit in this film, and even beats some guys to the corner. But it's pretty clear that he doesn't have what you'd call "elite" speed. That's fine by me.
In terms of comparisons to current or former Bulldogs, two guys spring immediately to mind. For one, when I see him back in the I-formation I have a strange sense of deja vu, because it looks a lot like Richard Samuel did in high school. That being said, I think Turman does a better job generally of running behind his pads than Samuel did, and he's built a bit lower to the ground. He also reminds me of Boo Malcome in his running style, but I think he's probably a little quicker and shiftier than Malcome.
If I had to find a flaw it would be this, and it's a big one: I don't like the way he holds the ball. He sometimes gets a little of a "chicken wing" thing going, holding the ball out from his body and not always tight to his armpit. That's going to have to improve in Athens if he wants to see consistent playing time. He could also pick his feet up higher in the hole, though I'm way less concerned about that than where he carries the ball at times. This is all fixable however.
Ultimately I don't know if this is a case of Georgia beating out everybody in the country for a top tailback. Again, Turman is a very specific kind of back. And his commitment to Georgia now may have had something to do with FSU's continued recruitment of tailback Alex Collins and Miami's apparent cooling on him as a prospect. All of that being said, I'm pretty happy about it. I've never been a big fan of smaller tailbacks, especially not in our offense, for a couple of reasons.
For one, the Bulldog offense is a pro-style offense designed to open holes in the running game between the tackles. Sure, we've occasionally done good things with the toss sweep, and when he has a quarterback who can run it and a defense vulnerable to it, Mike Bobo's been known to run a little read-option on the edge. But by and large Georgia likes to run in the A and B gaps then play action pass when you get too worried about stopping that. That type of running game takes guys who can bounce off tacklers, rather than shaking them in space. Turman is the former.
Second, the Georgia passing game, when it's clicking at least, relies heavily on tailbacks to pass block. You'll recall that one of the big problems during the South Carolina game was the freshman tailbacks inability to stop Jadaveon Clowney. To be fair, not a lot of running backs anywhere are going to stop that guy consistently. But less superhuman defenders can and must be handled by the backs in Georgia's scheme, especially when we go with one back looks, and especially if we want to continue to get the tight ends more involved.
Turman's big enough (or soon will be big enough) to stop defenders. As you can see beginning around the 4:00 mark of this video, Turman's not afraid to stick his nose in there and block. His technique will however need to improve, as his foot position isn't very good. It's important for pass blocking backs to set their feet and get a good base to deliver a blow that stops the rusher. Turman just kind of pops guys with his shoulder sometimes, though it's a good pop.
In the end, Turman gives us a nice sized tailback who should become a physical runner for the future. He's unlikely to see a lot of action in 2013 barring injury, but could probably step in and take some snaps if necessary. Because it will undoutedly be asked, no, I don't think Turman's commitment affects Norcross tailback Alvin Kamara, who many believe to also be leaning to the Bulldogs. Turman and Gurley are very different kinds of backs, with Kamara being more like a Keith Marshall, a guy with blazing speed who could play some slotback/receiver. Together they could become the next "thunder and lightning" type combo in Athens.
Turman's commitment however might put to rest the dim hopes of Bulldog fans that either Derrick Henry or Tyren Jones will decommit from Alabama and end up in Athens. This commitment likely means that we have the pro-style tailback for this class, and it's A.J. Turman. Welcome to Bulldog Nation, A.J., and . . .