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DJ Turner looks to use skill and experience to play a large role for Maryland football

The redshirt senior will man the slot and could play a key role in special teams during his final season.

DJ Turner Maryland football 2019 Sarah Sopher / Testudo Times

Our summer profile series is back and we’re previewing Maryland football one position group at a time. We’ll be spending our first week with potentially the most impactful position on this year’s team, the Terp wide receiver group.

Henry profiled potential ace receiver Jeshaun Jones on Wednesday, and today, we’ll take a look at DJ Turner.

DJ Turner, WR, No. 1

Height: 5’9
Weight: 209
Year: Redshirt Senior
Hometown: Glenarden, Md.
High school: DeMatha Catholic HS

2019 Stats: 3 games; 4 rec, 84 yds; 3 punt returns, 107 yds, 1 TD; 1 kickoff return, 22 yds
Career Stats: 30 games; 24 rec, 294 yds, 1 TD; 7 rush, 23 yds; 3 punt returns, 107 yds, 1 TD

The background

Turner, a former four-star recruit, was ranked as the No. 4 player out of the state of Maryland in the 2016 recruiting class, per 24/7 Sports. He recorded over 800 receiving and kick return yards and eight interceptions during his junior season at DeMatha Catholic in 2014. He was a member of the DeMatha team that won three straight Washington Catholic Athletic Conference titles under the helm of Elijah Brooks, who is now entering his second season as Maryland’s Running Backs Coach.

Turner appeared in 27 games over the first three seasons of his Maryland career, prior to earning a starting role during his senior season. He got off to a blazing start in 2019, grabbing four catches for 84 yards and returning three punts for 107 yards and a score through the first three games of the season before everything came to a scorching halt.

On Sept. 20, 2019 — which was Maryland’s bye week — Turner was charged with a DUI. Head coach Mike Locksley told media he did not suspend Turner, but thought it would be best for the receiver to redshirt the rest of the season to “focus on non-football things.” The charges have since been dropped, Turner said. He is returning for his fifth season in College Park and is looking to produce even more than the hot start he got off to last season.

Turner can sprint past tacklers on offense and special teams

Turner was named to Athlon Sports’ 2020 Preseason All-Big Ten Team as a punt return specialist despite only manning the position for the first time in 2019. In a small sample size from the 2019 season, Turner showed glimpses of his ability to slither past tacklers for long punt returns.

In the season opener against Howard, he returned a punt 40 yards for a touchdown, essentially sneaking past tacklers, as he barely got touched. Just two weeks later, in what would be his final game of the season, he returned a career-best 55 yard punt inside the 10-yard line at Temple. Turner was able to stay on his feet as he avoided a pile of Temple tacklers and used his speed to get out to the sideline and out run defenders.

During his junior season in 2018, Turner caught 13 passes for 159 yards, finishing the year averaging 12.2 yards per catch. And through three games in 2019, he averaged 21.0 yards per catch. Turner has the ability to be a deep ball threat and also use his powerful acceleration to create open areas on the field himself after hurling the ball in.

A second chance is to be had for Turner to impress NFL scouts

After missing his chance to impress NFL scouts last season, Turner was able to redshirt the year and will have one more chance to prove himself. As a 5-foot-9 wide receiver, he is often overlooked, though his skillset could change that.

Arguably the NFL’s best wide receiver, a few years ago, Antonio Brown stands at 5’10” along with guys like Julian Edelman, Golden Tate and Randall Cobb. Former NFL great Steve Smith Sr. and current speedster T.Y. Hilton both stand at 5’9”. Though all of these receivers stand at similar heights, they all play different styles of football, which is why Turner could prove to scouts that he belongs in the league with a successful season.

Maryland has also recently had success sending wide receivers to the NFL with Darrius Heyward-Bey (drafted in 2009), Torrey Smith (drafted in 2011), Stefon Diggs (drafted in 2015) and DJ Moore (drafted in 2018).

So many questions lie ahead about the 2020 season, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But if the season is played in some capacity, full or shortened, expect Turner to play a large role as Maryland’s slot receiver.

Playing out of the slot and having the opponent’s best defenders cover Dontay Demus Jr. and Jeshaun Jones could potentially help Turner see more touches on offense and help him prove to scouts that he is capable of making the jump to the next level.