Turner arrived in Chapel Hill as a January enrollee in 2011 in a pro-style setting where he expected his target weight to remain in the 335-to-345-pound range. The implementation of a drastically different offensive approach -- centered around a fast tempo with a new staff -- completely altered his desired body frame.
“I’ve been trying to lose weight since I got here,” Turner said. “I came in at 340 pounds in January. I was already 340 and the highest I got with the old staff was 358 pounds right after the Independence Bowl, which is tough.
“What’s really funny is that I got on the scale with all my pads the other day and I was 327. I was thinking I can’t even imagine weighing that much anymore. This new staff and offense has me losing weight because it has to be fast. I’ve been really thankful for that.”
The dietary approach for Turner has revolved around healthy meal planning with team nutritionist Rebecca Rebmann. While some players can eat as they please – Quinshad Davis highlighted pizza as a primary food choice for his weight gain – others such as Turner have to be more cautious with their eating habits.
“To diet, I usually meet with the nutritionist and I have a pretty good handle on what I need to eat,” Turner said. “More protein, less carbs and more vegetables. I’m the kind of guy who can look at a pizza and gain five or six pounds. My record was 10 pounds in two days. It’s tough. I hold on to calories pretty bad.”
The Harrisonburg, Va. native acknowledged being a little lighter on his feet, crediting the dedication for his dramatic weight loss to strength and conditioning coach Lou Hernandez. Turner admitted missing his weight goal on a couple of occasions and owing Hernandez StairMaster climbs to pay back for his mishaps.
“I had shoulder surgery this past December and I put on a lot of weight from that so I had to lose weight. I didn’t make my weight with Coach Lou so every pound I was over was 50 flights. It was 50 flights at first but I was still not getting there so he cranked it up to 100 flights for every pound. You’ve got to get your weight down. The StairMaster and me have a hate relationship. There’s no love at all.”
The constant effort to get himself into playing condition looks to pay dividends this season as Turner is expected to be a major contributor at right guard for the Tar Heels. Turner started the last four games of 2012 after Brennan Williams suffered a season-ending injury, forcing Travis Bond to slide to right tackle.
“That experience was invaluable to me,” Turner said. “They asked me to step up so I think you really can’t replace game experience. It really helped me catapult into spring football and then from there on to fall camp. I feel a lot more confident in the offense. I’m kind of like the right side guy to hold it down because I’ve been there.”
Another facet of his game that’s arisen over the past year has been the opportunity to expand his role and offer a viable veteran at the center position if Russell Bodine were to suffer an injury. Will Dancy and freshman Lucas Crowley both lack the game experience necessary to provide the staff with a comfortable backup, so Turner took over as the guy ready to take over if unfortunate events sidelined Bodine.
“I played center in high school, but my senior year I was at tackle,” Turner said. “Running QB sneaks were the only time I’d play center.”
That was Turner’s last experience at center until offensive line coach Chris Kapilovic approached him in the spring about learning the center position.
“I think it’s good to have going into the next level if that’s a possibility and it could help the team,” Turner said. “I spent spring ball snapping and getting reps at center. I spent the summer working on it and got a few snaps every day and I’ve got fall camp. It works together with the guard so it’s not the hardest transition. I already have to know what he’s doing because he’s working with me anyway. It’s kind of a new position but I feel pretty comfortable with it.”
Despite the insurance policy set up for the center position, the offensive line is still looking for its starting right tackle to emerge from the trio of Kiaro Holts, Jon Heck and Nick Appel. Turner claimed that the bond between the entire offensive line will prove to be beneficial regardless of who claims the starting role. Although the entire unit is a “tight knit group,” according to Turner, a few small kinks need to be straightened out before taking the trip to Columbia on Aug. 29.
“I don’t know who’s starting at right tackle right now but I know whoever it is I’m going to be able to mesh with,” Turner said. “We have quite a few practices left before South Carolina so we can really get comfortable on silent snaps and stuff like that.”