COLUMBIA, S.C. – An up-tempo offense and a role on special teams might have the South Carolina football team’s leading rusher gasping for air this fall.
However, A.J. Turner is already accustomed to that workload.
Turner, who finished with a team-high 531 rushing yards in 2017, is among the handful of running backs returning to the position in Year 3 under Coach Will Muschamp. As a redshirt sophomore last season, Turner was also first among all Gamecocks in kickoff returns (11) and special teams tackles (6).
This spring, he was a busy man, bouncing between his assignments as a running back and special teams player, “doing whatever my coaches are telling me to.” In addition to returning kicks, he worked on the kickoff, punt and punt block teams.
“Wherever position they have me go, it’s what I’m going to do,” Turner said, with a laugh, “So I’ve just got to suck it up, I guess.”
It’s not an issue, not even close.
“I feel like it gives me a lot of opportunity to be on the field and showcase what I can do, not just at running back, not just on kickoff or returning the ball,” Turner said. “I feel like I can do a lot of different things, so just being able to show that is a blessing.”
As a running back in 2017, Turner’s favorite individual play was his 20-yard touchdown run against Tennessee.
The 27-yard run against Vanderbilt, when he didn’t score, that’s up there, too.
“I should’ve scored. I should’ve stretched the ball out. I just jumped and didn’t end up getting it,” Turner said. “But I ended up scoring on the next play. Jumping over the line to score against Vanderbilt was definitely an exciting thing as well.”
On special teams, the fumble recovery against Michigan stands out.
“Knowing that I changed the field position, that was a great thing,” Turner said.
But there isn’t anything that’s quite like running down the field on kickoffs, “and just smacking people.”
“Just trying to lay people out,” Turner said. “That’s something that I enjoy and I’ll continue to do.”