Despite being shorter than most of his teammates, wide receiver DJ Turner played head-and-shoulders above the competition at Maryland’s spring football game on Saturday. The rising sophomore made the most of his snaps, catching six balls for 126 yards and a touchdown.
“He’s done that all spring long,” DJ Durkin said after the game. “He’s been really really solid for us — consistent. He’s a playmaker with the ball in his hands. He’s a tough cover in the slot.”
He was a tough cover indeed. In the third quarter, with the offense driving, Max Bortenschlager found Turner on a wheel route down the right sideline for a 28-yard touchdown. It was one of the best passes of the day and gave fans a glimpse into what may be a future centerpiece of Maryland’s offense.
Turner was a problem for the defensive backfield all day — which was without four cornerbacks who figure to be a big part of the scheme going forward.
“He's really explosive, good route runner, good hands — sure hands,” Bortenschlager said. “He's a really explosive player.”
It was the first game action in about six months for Turner, who’s hardly played since his junior year of high school. He missed almost his entire senior season of high school with a leg injury, and totaled just two catches for 19 yards before a November suspension ended his freshman year at Maryland.
“I think for DJ, this whole spring, but really today being on the game field and doing that,” Durkin said. “Anytime you have young guys with limited game experience get out there and being able to go do it is big.”
The spring game, essentially a glorified open practice, is a time for players to make their case for playing time on the biggest stage they’ll have until September. In his first spring game as a player rather than a spectator, Turner knew a good showing could lead to an increased role in the fall.
“I had to come out here and make a statement,” Turner said. “I definitely had a chip on my shoulder because of the suspension and me not playing as much last year, so I had to come out and make a name for myself and prove everybody wrong that didn’t think I was gonna come back and be as good as what I’m doing.”
With the offense up only two points late in the fourth quarter, Turner found a soft spot in the zone and stopped his route — a veteran move from a young receiver. Bortenschlager delivered the pass on time and Turner was off to the races. He made it all the way inside the 10-yard line before Milan Collins pushed him out of bounds to keep the defense in the game.
The offense ended up settling for a field goal to put White up 40-35 and the clock expired before the defense would have a chance to score again.
“It’s a great feeling,” Turner said. “Just being out here and playing and making plays is a great feeling.”