Tur­nure’s tough­ness vi­tal to kick cov­er­age

The Columbus Dispatch - - Sports - By Tim May

As Zach Tur­nure is fly­ing — at least that is what it feels like, he says — down the field to cover a kick­off for Ohio State and he sees the re­turn man bob­ble the catch — well, he can take it from there.

“It’s kind of like a lit­tle adren­a­line rush, it just kicks you up to an­other speed,” Tur­nure said Tues­day, re­call­ing the jolt he got on the way to tak­ing down a Michi­gan State re­turner at the 5-yard line last week with a swan dive of a tackle. “I saw that and I just at­tacked even harder and went even

faster. … Right af­ter he scooped it up I took the an­gle and then wiped him out.”

That’s like po­etry to the ears of coach Ur­ban Meyer. That’s be­cause the kick­off team, from kicker to cover men, was the bane of his ex­is­tence weeks ago.

The kick place­ment wasn’t con­sis­tent and nei­ther was the cov­er­age, as shown by a 97- yard re­turn for a touch­down by Penn State’s Saquon Barkley to open that game. And that was the sec­ond TD re­turn this sea­son.

But there was at least one con­sis­tently good thing about the unit: Tur­nure.

“He's not been the prob­lem. He's been part of the so­lu­tion,” Meyer said this week. “And he is a tough guy. I love that kid. His fam­ily should be very proud of who he is. He's on schol­ar­ship now ( awarded be­fore the sea­son) and it's not be­cause of a gift. It's be­cause he's earned that.

“He's one of our most pro­duc­tive play­ers on the team. Even when you see him not mak­ing a tackle, he's usu­ally cre­at­ing enough chaos that some­one else makes it. He's a stud. I love that kid.”

Tur­nure showed up at Ohio State in 2014 as a lacrosse player, a sport in which he was an All- Amer­i­can at Chris­tian Broth­ers Col­lege High School in St. Louis. He soon switched to foot­ball.

“I fol­lowed my heart with that de­ci­sion,” Tur­nure said.

It was rem­i­nis­cent of how Nate Ebner par­layed his pas­sion for rugby into a walk- on role with the Buck­eyes as a special- teams play­maker through 2011. He’s now in his sixth year with the Su­per Bowl cham­pion New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots.

“I like to look up to him for sure, and if any op­por­tu­nity arises ( in the NFL) … I’d like to give it a shot for sure,” Tur­nure said.

At the mo­ment, though, he’s pre­par­ing for Illi­nois on Satur­day, his fi­nal game at Ohio Sta­dium along with the rest of the se­niors. He and fresh­man de­fen­sive back Amir Riep have ex­celled of late in cov­er­age, and the group has risen to No. 18 in the na­tion, giv­ing up just 18.1 yards per re­turn.

“I think the big­gest thing was kind of ac­knowl­edg­ing the fact that we had is­sues and re­ally kind of get­ting it squared away, what everybody’s in­di­vid­ual re­spon­si­bil­i­ties were,” Tur­nure said.

When it goes right, like on his fly­ing tackle last week, it’s the equiv­a­lent of TD rush for a cover man.

“Once that sort of play hap­pens you hear the stands roar,” Tur­nure said. “That’s where I def­i­nitely get mine on the field.”

DIS­PATCH] [BAR­BARA J. PERENIC/

Ohio State’s Zach Tur­nure brings down Michi­gan State kick­off re­turner Con­nor Hey­ward on Satur­day.

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