Football: Q&A: True freshman defensive back Devin Turner discusses rise to starting lineup, matchup against Purdue


Angeli Mittal/Daily Senior Staffer

Northwestern football is back on the road this weekend against Big Ten foe Purdue. Defensive back and true first year Devin Turner discusses his preparation for this week’s matchup.

Skye Swann, Assistant Gameday Editor

True freshman defensive back Devin Turner has been coming up big in the last couple weeks for Northwestern’s secondary, earning the team’s weekly defensive Big Playmaker honor for his efforts against Minnesota.

As one of the Wildcats’ youngest players, Turner’s presence on the field is a rare find — but he’s not letting it stop him from making big plays on the field. The Cats’ defensive back recorded a career-high 10 tackles on the Gophers last weekend. 

Turner, who has been elevated to the starting position in recent weeks, has been focused on growing his skill and adapting to the college level this year. 

The Daily spoke with Turner about his recent start in games and his transition to college ball.

The Daily: Coaches have talked about the next-man-up mentality in the last couple weeks. Why is that going to be so pivotal against Purdue? 

Turner: Right now, we have a lot of injuries and we really need everybody to step up. Everybody is talking about how everybody has a role. It’s really important this week because we need everybody, from the scout teams to the starters to the backups.

The Daily: What has your experience been like as a true first year, getting to see so much action and making some plays too?

Turner: It’s a little different than high school. I’ll tell you that much. But it’s fun, being out there with my brothers, being able to play fast, being able to play confident. That really doesn’t start on Saturday. It starts on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, when we’re looking at film and we’re all practicing hard, practicing fast, trying to work on tackling, trying to work on punching the ball. That’s a testament to the team and the confidence that they give me because of what we do on the practice field.

The Daily: What was that moment like when you first got the call that you were going in?

Turner: I mean I was a little nervous, knees were knocking, but after that, I kind of settled in and started playing. I mean it’s football.

The Daily: Is that something you thought could happen this year when you came?

Turner: I did. When I first got here in spring ball, I’m not going to lie, I thought I could have a chance to play. I didn’t think it was going to be that early, but I did think I was going to have a chance.

The Daily: What does it mean to contribute to NU’s secondary unit?

Turner: Oh, it’s amazing. I can’t wait to be a part of this great defensive back legacy, and I just want to be in a pivotal role to make change here and carve a role for myself in the secondary. And, not just even in the secondary, but on the defensive side of the ball and effort as a team.

The Daily: How have some of those older defensive backs helped you make that transition into playing college ball? Are there specific guys that have really helped you?

Turner: Everybody in the defense has helped me out, from the corners to the safeties to linebackers. I would just say everybody has helped me out. Whether it’s just watching film and talking me through it, kind of helps me slow the game down in my head before the games.

The Daily: Obviously, as a true first-year, this is your first time going against the Purdue offense. What do you think they do best that is going to be a priority in your approach?

Turner: I’d say they pass the ball. They are one of the most passing teams in the Big Ten right now. As the backend and as myself, we got to focus on doing our jobs and focusing on what we’re supposed to do going against them and their pass attack.

The Daily: How do you prepare for such a wide range of different offenses in such a short time?

Turner: I would say that’s a testament to the defensive coordinator, coach (Jim) O’Neil and all the other coaches. I mean they do a lot. They’re up here all night if they can be, to come up with a new game plan back to back and being able to do that. 

The Daily: The last couple road games haven’t been ideal for the team. How do you regroup and kind of look forward instead of looking back at those past results?

Turner: We look forward, we don’t look backwards. It’s in the past, and now we got to focus on what’s going on this week in Purdue. We just got to focus on what we can do to improve, figure out what our faults were, things to improve on and not make the same mistakes. So we can go into the next week getting better and better.

John Riker contributed reporting.

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