Linebacker Roshaud Turner went from scout team player to starter in two years.
Turner got his first career start against Prairie View on Saturday in place of linebacker Javon Allen, who recently had surgery on a hand injury.
Turner finished second on the team in tackles with 12 total (eight solo) in the win.
“He stepped right in, and we didn’t miss a beat,” linebacker coach Lorick Atkinson said. “And that’s how we try to do it as a team, especially in the linebacker core. I couldn’t be prouder. He did a great job for us.”
Turner joined the team as a walk-on in 2012, and Atkinson noticed major improvement from the redshirt sophomore during 2014 spring practices.
After injuries began to plague linebackers during this year’s fall camp, Turner moved his way into the second string.
Turner recognized his own improvements during camp, as well as his need for financial assistance, so he asked Odums to be put on scholarship.
“Coach Odums says if you do the right things, go to class and do the things you’re told to and coached to do, you will get an opportunity to play for him,” Turner said. “Hopefully I can be here for the long haul.”
Walk-ons are required to attend practice and maintain a 3.0 to be considered for financial aid. Turner met the qualifications, so Odums put him on scholarship.
“I have no problem helping you if funds are available,” Odums said. “We understand how hard it is to pay to go to school. Your job is to be a student-athlete, and you’re required to do both, and that’s what we’re looking for in players.”
Turner, who wants to start a career in broadcast sports journalism, said his success in the classroom helps him on the field. He said focusing in class contributes to his understanding the game and being a coachable player. Atkinson added that Turner’s knowledge of the game has contributed to the linebacker’s growth.
“Roshaud knows the defense, and that’s half the battle: getting lined up right,” Atkinson said. “I told him not to rest on his laurels, and hopefully he’ll continue to improve.”
Against Prairie View, Demetrius Carter led the team in tackles with 15, three more than Turner. With only five linebackers healthy and eligible to play, the new tandem of Carter and Turner is a bright spot on the Jaguars defense.
“Roshaud Turner and Demetrius Carter played as fine a football game as we’ve had at the same time at the linebacker position in a while,” Odums said. “They did a great job in the open field and helped us stuff the run.”
Turner said his chemistry and communication with Carter, as well as knowing each other’s assignments, during games contributed to their success last weekend.
Carter’s first start was in last year’s Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship Game, and this season he’s a defensive leader, ranking first on the team in tackles with 36 and quarterback hurries with two.
Carter is a leader Atkinson said he wants in the game during the fourth quarter.
“He’s come a long way and just plays with so much heart, so much energy,” Atkinson said.
“He’s not the most talented, he’s not the fastest. But he just plays with so much (energy). I can’t get him out of there. Our defense feeds off of him.”