Turnure’s toughness vital to kick coverage
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.”
Ohio State’s Zach Turnure brings down Michigan State kickoff returner Connor Heyward on Saturday.