There's a Middle Ground on Turner Departure

I’m currently writing this from an island in Canada with no real internet, so I’m forced to tether my phone to my laptop and deal with dial-up level connection speed — this will be brief and sans pretty pictures as a result, but I wanted to write a bit more on Justin Turner’s departure before the weekend hit.

There seem to be two schools of thought on Turner’s departure, each polar opposites in their outlook. The first, as seen on many message boards and blogs (sorry, no links, as I barely have enough bandwith as it is), is one of semi-panic at the departure of a former five-star recruit at a position of great need. The other, espoused over at The Wolverine (free article) by my friend Michael Spath, is one of relative unconcern — Turner clearly wasn’t working hard enough to see the field, and therefore Michigan didn’t lose much in the short term. While I tend to side with Spath in this case, I do take issue with the headline of the piece (“Turner’s departure will not impact Michigan”) and this paragraph:

Meanwhile, Michigan has adapted. Some losses have hurt more than others but Turner’s won’t be one that retards the Maize and Blue significantly this fall. He had great promise, elite talent, but a work ethic that didn’t match his ability, and his impact this fall would have likely been relegated to the occasional snaps seen as a reserve cornerback or dime defender.

While it is true that Turner was slated for a reserve role, his departure could still have an enormous impact on this defense. This has nothing to do with his future potential, and everything to do with who is left to fill in the reserve roles — beyond four-star freshman Cullen Christian, Michigan has two undersized three-star freshmen who ideally would take a redshirt year, senior James Rogers (who has bounced between receiver and defensive back during his U-M career), running back-turned-safety-turned-corner Teric Jones, and walk-on Tony Anderson. If there’s an injury to Troy Woolfolk or J.T. Floyd, one of those players will be pressed into a starting job, and another will see the field plenty as a nickel back. While Turner was coming up well short of expectations, his natural ability on the football field likely would have gotten him onto the field this fall in some capacity if that was the case — Michigan’s options at the position are that limited.

What am I trying to say here? Turner’s departure doesn’t mean the sky is falling, and there’s a decent chance Spath is right and the 2010 team doesn’t suffer from his departure. But, if something were to happen to Woolfolk, Floyd, or even Christian, Michigan will certainly feel Turner’s absence — it’s tough to sugercoat how dire the depth situation is at corner. There’s no reason to get too concerned at the moment, but Michigan is one bad break away from the secondary becoming even more disconcerting, and Turner’s departure has a lot to do with that.

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