Jimbo Fisher opting to keep offensive line coach Jim Turner on the Texas A&M football coaching staff says plenty about both men.
Turner has baggage, not the big suitcases that Jerry Springer opens on the television show of the same name, but small carry-ons that are inevitably reopened when Turner is in the news.
Turner was fired by the Miami Dolphins in 2014 over the bullying of Jonathan Martin, though Turner filed a lawsuit against NFL investigator Ted Wells and his law firm, alleging defamation after Wells’ 144-page report questioned Turner’s actions that led to his dismissal. Turner’s lawsuit eventually was dismissed.
Before the 2016 season, Turner was suspended for two weeks without pay along with special teams and tight end coach Jeff Banks for a presentation containing inappropriate content that was degrading toward females at “Chalk Talk for Women,” a charity fundraising event attended by approximately 700 women.
Both incidents are minor or major depending on your point of view. Turner has been hired three times since being fired by the Dolphins, twice by the Aggies and once by Cincinnati. The coaches doing the hiring — Cincinnati’s Tommy Tuberville, A&M’s Kevin Sumlin and Fisher — did their homework and found no reason not to hire Turner. He has a great track record with the coaches he’s worked for and certainly with the Aggie linemen he’s tutored. As for the Chalk Talk incident, there were women attending who said they were not offended, but it seems in bad taste nonetheless.
Everyone has some sort of baggage, but Turner’s biggest baggage in whether he’d be retained by Fisher was the performance of the offensive line this season, which was projected to be a team strength but fell well short of expectations. A&M averaged 155.6 yards rushing per game to rank 77th in the country. A&M averaged 211.8 yards per game and ranked 34th the previous season as running backs Trayveon Williams and Keith Ford provided a solid 1-2 punch, combining to rush for 1,726 yards while averaging 6.1 yards a pop.
Everyone figured they’d be just as good or better this season. Expectations grew higher after they opened the season by rushing for 317 yards on 40 carries against UCLA, but they had tough sledding thereafter as Williams ended with only 798 yards, averaging 4.6 yards a carry, and Ford had 548 yard with a 3.9 average.
Turner kept tinkering with the offensive line throughout the season, but the results pretty much remained the same. A&M didn’t run for more than 150 yards in any of its last eight games and didn’t produce 100 five times.
There are plenty of reasons why A&M couldn’t run the football, starting with underestimating the losses of Avery Gennesy and Jermaine Eluemunor. Gennesy started every game at left tackle last season, while Eluemunor started eight games at right tackle and four at right guard.
A&M’s running game in 2016 also was complemented by the speed, strength and experience of senior quarterback Trevor Knight, who ran for 614 yards with 10 touchdowns. It also helped the offense having a bevy of veteran receivers. Compare that to this year when A&M had freshman quarterbacks complemented by young or relatively inexperienced receivers save one — Christian Kirk.
It all added up to A&M averaging 406.8 yards offense per game to rank 56th in the country, a drop of 60 yards per game, all the lowest numbers in Sumlin’s six years coaching the Aggies.
It would have been easy for Fisher to clean house on that side of the football, especially Turner, so it’s telling that Turner is the one who ends up staying. Fisher formed his own conclusions and liked what he saw. Turner, despite the baggage and this year’s disappointing rushing numbers, remains highly respected at what he does. He’s great at recruiting and developing talent. If you ever catch a spring or fall practice, watch Turner coach. He’s intense, funny and gets results.
Turner helped develop several first-round NFL draft picks in his first stint at A&M, and while he won’t have anyone drafted this year, maybe he should get more credit for his work last season with Gennesy and Eluemunor, who are now in the NFL.
A&M’s depth chart this season had all underclassmen in the line other than senior Christian Damier, a backup. The 11 players included redshirt freshman Ryan McCollum and true freshmen Dan Moore Jr., Carson Green, Jared Hocker and Robert Congel.
It’s obvious Fisher liked the progress the young group has made under Turner. Fisher runs a pro-style offense and had eight offensive linemen drafted into the NFL while head coach at Florida State, so it’s obvious he knows a good line coach when he sees one and believes Turner’s teaching methods will in time help A&M compete for championships and pack its bags for big-time bowls.
Fisher officially announced his complete offensive staff Wednesday. The group includes Turner, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Darrell Dickey, tight ends coach Tim Brewster, wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig and running backs coach Jay Graham, who previously had been reported as an A&M hire.
The hangup on announcing the defensive side was the coordinator. The Baton Rouge-Advocate reported earlier this week that LSU’s Dave Aranda had turned down the job, but the Houston Chronicle reported Wednesday that not only was A&M back in the hunt but that the Aranda hire was imminent. The Advocate then reported late Wednesday that Aranda was back in the LSU fold and is expected to get a four-year, $10 million guaranteed contract from the Tigers.
LSU head coach Ed Orgeron confirmed the news via Twitter.
“I’m very happy to report Dave Aranda has agreed to be with our program for years to come,” Orgeron said. “Thanks to [athletic director] Joe Alleva, [president] Dr. [F. King] Alexander and the board of supervisors for their support in making this happen. Geaux Tigers.”