Southern Miss defensive lineman Jacques Turner may not realize it, but he’s ahead of the game.
Last season, as a freshman, the 6-foot-2, 260-pounder from D’Iberville didn’t play a down and was redshirted. But he practiced hard, made improvements, and this year, Turner has played in all four football games, becoming one of a 10-man rotation of defensive linemen for the Golden Eagles.
“He’s been a big surprise this season,” Southern Miss defensive coordinator Tony Pecoraro said, “a big, big help.
“We knew Jacques could rush the passer. He’s always been real good at that. As the season has progressed, he has done a good job of finding his way on the field on normal downs. He did a really good job on the point of attack in the run game on Saturday, especially early. He’s really been a big addition for us.”
In USM’s 43-28 loss to North Texas last week, Turner made one solo tackle and one assist. He was credited with 0.5 sacks for a 1-yard loss and 1.5 tackles for loss for 2 yards.
Turner, who made 100 tackles as a high school senior, may be a redshirt freshman but he was ready for the challenge this year.
For the season, Turner had made three solo tackles and has been in on four others, with 4.5 of the total being in the offensive backfield. He has 2.5 sacks.
“Last year when I redshirted, I focused the whole year on getting better and preparing for this time right now,” he said. “So I’m taking advantage of it every opportunity I get to play, whether I play 10 snaps or 30 snaps.”
While the play of the Golden Eagles’ defense in general tailed off in the second half against North Texas, Turner stepped up his game. When he ran onto the field and lined up at defensive end, he got into the middle of the plays.
“Every time I get in the game, I want to be effective” he said. “Coach trusts me when I’m on the field to make a difference. So every opportunity I get, I’m going to try to give my all.”
Getting close to the quarterback, with his long hair flowing, is when all eyes are on Turner, but he wants to do more than that.
“I think my strong point is pass rushing,” he said. “I want to be able to stop the run, so I don’t want to be one-dimensional. Just work on stopping the run and I’ll be an all-around player.”
The entire Southern Miss defense must play better this week against undefeated UTSA (3-0).
“We’ve got to play a lot smarter,” Turner said. “A lot of the (defensive) players, there were missed assignments. This week, we’ve got to play physical but we’ve got to be smart.”
Who: Southern Miss vs. UTSA
When: 6 p.m., Saturday
Where: San Antonio, Texas
Radio: 104.9 FM