Turner A Starter In ’13?
Starry Days For Ex-Streak
Posted: January 4, 2013
HARRISONBURG – A long time ago in a galaxy not so far away, Landon Turner and his step-father, Chris Womack, got the idea to eventually watch the entire “Star Wars” series in one sitting.
“I can’t remember the exact time,” Womack said, estimating Turner was probably in his early years at Harrisonburg High School. “We actually were going to do it before he left for college, but that got kinda crazy because he was going to San Antonio for the All-American Game.”
On Dec. 19 around midday in Harrisonburg, the quest finally began with six newly purchased Blu-ray discs.
“When Episode 6 came around, we looked at each other and we were like, ‘We’ve got to finish this,’” said Turner, a former HHS star lineman finishing his redshirt freshman season at North Carolina. “It was great. It was a great time.”
“We had to be strong to finish it. I think we struggled a bit,” Turner added of the movie marathon. “Eyes got heavy here and there, but we made it through.”
The feat took 12 hours and was one of the “silver lining” opportunities afforded to UNC’s backup right guard, who started in the last four games for the Tar Heels (8-4 overall, 5-3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference).
That stretch did not include a bowl game, though.
That’s because UNC – the ACC’s top team in the Coastal Division under new coach Larry Fedora – was serving a one-season bowl ban as part of NCAA sanctions stemming from an investigation into improper benefits and academic fraud during Butch Davis’ coaching tenure.
“It’s been really bittersweet,” Turner said. “Obviously, we want to go to a bowl and get out there and get some bowl rings. But looking at the silver lining – which I like to try to do – we actually got a winter break and was able to do some things we wouldn’t be able to do like see family.”
News of the UNC scandal broke in August 2010, just a month after Turner made his verbal commitment to the Chapel Hill school. His stance then was the same as it is now: He’s more than happy to be a Tar Heel.
“The first year, obviously, there was a lot of turmoil,” Turner said by phone Thursday while visiting his father, West Turner, in South Carolina. “Coach Davis got fired. We had the interim coach [Everett Withers], and all those coaches left. Through all that and all that adversity, I’m glad I stuck with my commitment because UNC has been a great place for me and the new coaches have been great.”
It didn’t take long for the 6-foot-4, 320-pound Turner to make memories as a starter.
When right tackle Brennan Williams was lost for the season with a torn labrum, Turner was called upon to start at right guard against rival North Carolina State, as senior Travis Bond slid over to Williams’ spot.
“That was huge,” Turner said of his first collegiate start. “That’s a pretty big rivalry for us in football. We don’t particularly like each other at all, so it was really exciting to start for that.”
On UNC’s very first drive of the game, the Tar Heels got into the red zone and called tailback Giovani Bernard’s number. Turner remembered the play vividly.
“We ran a zone right,” he said, “and me and my center, Russell Bodine, had a zone block to the linebackers and we just blew up our guys and [Bernard] ran behind us for a touchdown. That was pretty exciting.”
The game-opening score was part of a 25-point first quarter for the Tar Heels, who won 43-35. UNC’s high-powered offense didn’t miss a beat with Turner inserted into a starting role. In fact, it improved.
Winning three of their last four games, the Tar Heels averaged nearly five points more per game, with 62 more passing yards and 24 more total yards of offense compared to their first eight games. In total, UNC ranked ninth in the nation on offense with 40.6 points per game. It averaged just over 500 yards per game with Turner blocking for Bernard – a sophomore who will enter the NFL draft – and junior quarterback Bryn Renner.
“I felt blessed,” Turner, a sports administration major, said of the opportunity to start. “I put in a lot of work and really felt ready and was just excited to contribute to the team in a bigger role. … It was good to see that we could keep the production up.”
Learning the ropes under senior linemen such as Bond and left guard Jonathan Cooper, Turner is probably beginning to feel a bit like Luke Skywalker without Obi-Wan Kenobi. The “tight-knit” group of O-linemen that Turner called a “family” is going to be shaken up this offseason with three starters graduating. It appears that Turner’s starting status is his to lose, based on his meeting with offensive line coach Chris Kapilovic before the holiday break.
“He told me nothing is guaranteed ever… as far as spots go,” said Turner, who wears No. 78. “But it’s mine to have and he’s really looking for me to step up in a leadership role, and I want to be able to do that for him and the team.”
As much fun as it’s been spending time with family, sleeping in, playing the “Call of Duty” video game he recently picked up and watching 12 straight hours of “Star Wars” movies, Turner has a much different holiday itinerary planned for next football season.
He’s ready to go bowling.
“It was a one-year ban, so next year we are good to go, which is exciting,” Turner said. “We ended up Coastal Division champs, so we would’ve been in the ACC championship this year. … I’m really confident in our offense. We’ve got that down. We’re going to score a lot of points.”