CHARLOTTE, NC (TheBigSpur.com) - South Carolina football running back A.J. Turner said prior to leaving for the Belk Bowl that he had taken all of his practice snaps on the defensive side of the ball, but expected to get some time on offense as well. Head coach Will Muschamp has other ideas, at least for the final game of the 2018 season.
Muschamp said on Tuesday after the team’s arrival to the Hilton City Center Hotel in downtown Charlotte that Turner would feature exclusively on the defensive side of the ball against Virginia. A full-time running back for his entire career with the Gamecocks (7-5) until the last week of the regular season this year, Turner will play only in the secondary to close out the year.
“He’ll play on defense in this game at the corner position,” Muschamp said from the hotel’s lobby to a small group of reporters who made the trip on Christmas Day. “He’ll obviously be a huge contributor on all four special teams unit, like he always is.”
Turner moved to the secondary during the week of practice prior to the Akron game, the 12th and final game of the regular season. He saw limited action on defense but, as usual, played a big role on special teams.
With a banged up secondary that includes a half dozen players out for the game against the Cavaliers (7-5), Turner has a chance to play some snaps at Bank of America Stadium, site of Saturday’s contest between the Southeastern and Atlantic Coast conferences.
While the move is permanent for this game, Turner has one more year of eligibility with the program and it is to be determined where his future stands.
“We’ll discuss that when the game is over,” Muschamp said, when asked on Tuesday if the move to defense is permanent for Turner. “A.J. is a very productive player for us. He can do multiple things. Again, we’re going to do what’s best for A.J. and our football team moving forward.”
South Carolina has four rising senior running backs, including Turner, scheduled to return for the 2019 season. Deshaun Fenwick and Lavonte Valentine return to the program as redshirt freshmen, while class of 2019 signee Kevin Harris will be a true freshman. He enrolls this January to begin his South Carolina career.
While the Gamecocks do have loads of young talent returning in the secondary and a recruiting class still to finish, the program will lose starting cornerbacks Keisean Nixon and Rashad Fenton along with starting safety Steven Montac.
It may be a numbers game for Turner, who had the fourth-most carries for the Gamecocks this season. Turner netted 294 yards this season with two touchdowns on 46 carries. He also caught eight passes for 75 yards and two scores.
South Carolina will face Virginia at noon in the Belk Bowl at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. Television coverage will be on ABC with Adam Amin doing play-by-play and Anthony Becht serving as an analyst. Rocky Boiman is the sideline reporter.