Turner returns from injury to anchor CMU secondary

Colorado Mesa University safety Darian Turner runs to disrupt a play Monday during the first football practice of the season. Turner missed last season, which would have been his senior season, after tearing his ACL playing basketball. The redshirt senior is back to anchor Colorado Mesa's secondary this season.

No more intramural basketball for Darian Turner.

"Not any more," the Colorado Mesa senior safety said with a grin Monday before the first football practice of the season.

Not when it cost him what was supposed to be his senior season last fall. Coming off an all-conference junior season in 2017, Turner was playing intramural basketball in the offseason.

"I went up for layup and got fouled and a guy came down and landed right on my knee," said Turner, who is wearing a brace on his right knee. "There was no need for it to happen, it was a fast break … whatever, though, we're here."

Surgery, rehab — and watching the Mavericks all of last season gave Turner, who had 67 tackles and three interceptions as a junior, a new appreciation of the game.

"It's tough not being around the guys as much as you want to be," the senior from Aurora said. "That's probably the hardest part, just sitting out on Saturdays and watching them play, not being in the locker room before the game, just the little things that you miss."

He even missed practicing, and Monday he had a smile on his face as the Mavericks went to work, intent on improving upon their 7-4 record from last season. With the freshmen taking their required orientation classes last week, CMU coach Russ Martin delayed the start of practice a couple of days — they could have started last Thursday.

The rest of the fall teams at CMU open camp later this week, with volleyball starting Wednesday and men's and women's soccer on Friday. The soccer teams will scrimmage back-to-back Saturday at Walker Field, starting at 11 a.m., and the football team has its first scrimmage at 9 a.m. on Saturday at Bergman Field.

Martin likes having morning practices early in fall camp when a lot of teaching is going on when it's a little cooler on the turf.

There was plenty of teaching Monday, from offensive line techniques to the bevy of receivers learning the myriad of routes.

At one point, four quarterbacks took snaps simultaneously, with receivers and tight ends running short, intermediate and deep routes, and four footballs flying through the air.

The defense joined in later, and both sides of the ball had their moments, with a couple of interceptions and deflections on defense, and a couple of receivers taking the ball to the house.

Turner took his spot in the secondary, reading the quarterback and pursuing receivers, just as he watched others do last fall.

"It hits you in the face, especially when it's something unexpected," he said of being injured. "Nobody expects to tear their ACL; that won't happen to me. It was a struggle and I got through it and I'm back day 1 ready to go."

More than being physically on the field, Turner wants to lend his talents in another way, as the leader of the defense, which will again be a mix of youth and experience.

"We lacked that in the secondary last year, we had a lot of new guys, a lot of new faces," he said. "We had Tony Clark, but it's different being at a corner. Corners can only manage one side of the field. At safety, you can see the whole field. Being back there, being the anchor for the defense, that's something I can lend and am looking forward to."

The Mavericks will have plenty of new faces on the offensive side of the football, from whoever wins the starting quarterback position to the running backs.

Senior Rope Ruel and sophomores Aaron Howard and Hayden Bollinger are the front-runners to start at quarterback, and who carries the ball is up for grabs. Of the running backs listed on the early roster, Trey Windham has the most game experience, but carried the ball only 14 times last season. Lake Makakona, who rushed for 558 yards and five touchdowns as a freshman before being injured last season, did not return to school.

Peter Anderson and KJ Sapp are back to anchor the deep, talented group of receivers, and Anderson won't be hard to spot, although he's been hard for opposing defenses to cover. He'll be the blur racing down the field, and Monday was sporting new white cleats with bright yellow highlights and laces.

With roughly one month to determine the depth chart and install the offense and defense before the season opener, the Mavs aren't wasting any time, with two practices a day, plus meetings this week.

"We've got a lot of young guys who are expected to play a lot, a lot of young guys who haven't toughed the field except special teams, so everybody has to man up and Mav up," Turner said. "That's our motto this year, man up. Do your 1/11th and everything will fall into place.

"If you're doing what you're supposed to on the field, in the classroom, we should be good."

And for Turner, staying off the basketball court — at least until his senior season is over.

Recommended for you