Vikings

Dallas Turner Is Ready To Go

Photo Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Turner was a five-star recruit out of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Still, he had to adjust to playing for Nick Saban at Alabama as a freshman.

“When I first came here it was a little hard because it was like, I’m not used to no 6:30 workouts every single day,” Turner told BamaInsider in 2021. “I mean, I kind of am, but it’s just kind of like the work that we put in. When we first got here in the weight room, they were lifting some heavy weights, and I was not lifting those weights like that back home. But I feel like once I got like my fourth, fifth week here working out, I feel like I got used to it and I got accustomed to the system.”

Turner quickly adjusted to college football, recording 30 tackles and 8.5 sacks in 11 games as a rookie. By the time he left Tuscaloosa, he was an All-American and SEC defensive player of the year. The Minnesota Vikings traded picks 23 and 167 this year, plus their third- and fourth-round picks next year, to the Jacksonville Jaguars to take Turner at No. 17.

Trade value aside, Turner possesses dynamic, game-changing ability. He joins Jonathan Greenard, Andrew Van Ginkel, and Blake Cashman as Minnesota’s newest additions to its defense. With more talent at his disposal, Brian Flores should better be able to stymie opposing offenses creatively with a dynamic pass rush. Flores has to be grinning ear to ear about his defense’s possibilities. Still, Turner learned that Flores is a perfectionist like Saban.

“It’s actually crazy because in the first defensive meeting, coach Flores orchestrated it with the same rules, regulations, and Day 1 base stuff that was the same in college,” said Turner. “One team, one defense. All about the ball, all about tackling, being physical, and playing fast. It’s a lot of the same stuff I was used to in college.”

Turner told TideIllutrated that learning Saban’s system as a freshman took him a while. However, once he did, he began looking forward to morning practices and could measure his progress.

“When I first came here, I felt like I was in a big hole that I had to get out of,” Turner said in 2021. “Over time, it was just being consistent with the playbook, studying the playbook every single day, putting in the extra time, and then just making sure I’m focusing on things I need to work on in the weight room and on the field as well. Once you take care of the little things, everything falls in place.”

Turner admitted that he didn’t think he’d end up in Minnesota. He’s had spare time before rookie minicamp opened last week, mostly passing the time by working out, learning the playbook, and playing Call of Duty and Madden.

“Last night, I was sitting in the hotel room,” he said. “I was looking at the map, looking at the bordering states and I never would have imagined I would be up here. I’m here now, ready to work, happy to be here, and ready to see what Minnesota has to offer.”

Growing up near Miami, Turner likely never considered vacationing in New Richmond, Wis., or Decorah, Ia. However, he’s excited to join a talented team with an established defensive coordinator and a head coach who won 13 games in his first season. Kevin O’Connell says he’s bringing Turner along slowly, feeding him more information and better explaining his defensive fit as time goes along.

“For Dallas, it’s just getting comfortable in that home position on the edge as an outside linebacker,” said O’Connell. “From there, once you can kind of build that comfort, then you can begin to stress him snap in and snap out where he’s lining up in some different spots, doing some different jobs depending on down and distance, who else is in the game with?

“I mean, think about Andrew Van Ginkel in the same way where the versatility to do multiple jobs, and then you’ve got JG (Jonathan Greenard), who has the ability to rush inside and out. Now, pair those guys with some interior rush as well, and you start to see a third-down package start to materialize.”

Mostly, O’Connell is trying to save Turner from himself. Turner is pent up after spending so much time in the hotel playing video games. He’s ready to go out and make a good first impression on his coaches. O’Connell wants to ensure he stays healthy early in camp so he’s ready for Week 1 when Turner could make an instant impact.

“There’s a reason why I have pretty strong feelings about doing team [drills] full-speed at rookie minicamp,” said O’Connell. “In many ways, it’s to protect the guys from themselves, you know, adding those extra few big guys on the field. And, you know, we had kind of a golden rule of staying off the ground today.

“So now I’m gonna tell them tomorrow maybe we weren’t practicing hard enough.”

Turner admits he’s ready to go full speed immediately.

“It’s like seeing a little kid in public, and the mom has a backpack leash on them,” he said with a smile. “The kid wants to go out there, run, play, and do all this stuff, and the mom’s like, ‘Nope, come back over here.’ It’s like that. They’re easing us into it. But once everyone gets here, we’re going to be rocking.”

Unlike J.J. McCarthy, who must learn O’Connell’s complicated offense and fundamentals and is unlikely to start Week 1, Turner could be ready to go by the opening kickoff. If he has a good camp, Turner should earn snaps and be able to get after the quarterback immediately. Flores’ bespoke defense is designed around each player, meaning he could work around any of Turner’s deficiencies.

Turner can’t go full speed right now. However, he has reason to believe the Vikings will unleash him as soon as the season starts.

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