When you're a consistent cellar dweller in the Western Athletic Conference and desperate to end the nation's longest bowl drought (1960 Sun Bowl), you take chances.
That was the case when the Aggies signed junior college star Kenny Turner, a 24-year-old JuCo All-American from Fullerton College. Turner spent time in prison on a charge of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, stemming from a shooting incident when he was 16.
At the time, Turner was a junior-to-be on the same high school team as current NFL Pro Bowlers Chris Johnson (Tennessee Titans) and Mike Sims-Walker (Jacksonville Jaguars), who was present the night Turner fired a gun toward someone he thought had fired a gun toward them.
According to Sims-Walker, Turner was the best of the bunch.
That is why New Mexico State, desperate to turn things around in Year 2 of the DeWayne Walker era, was eager to take a chance on a kid they're confident has turned things around.
"Kenny is a tremendous running back and athlete and possesses all the intangibles of a solid football player," Walker said. "We feel Kenny is sincere and passionate about moving on with his life. One of the first things I noticed about this young man is how humble he is and how eager he is to make a positive contribution in our society."
The perception of the program may depend on Turner staying on the straight and narrow. Scoring a few touchdowns wouldn't hurt, either.NOTES, QUOTES
SPRING OBJECTIVES: There was no bigger deficiency than quarterback on last year's NMSU squad and no bigger need for the spring.
Last year's quarterbacks, Jeff Fleming and Trevor Walls, will each get an opportunity, but there is little chance they'll be under center for NMSU in 2010. The job could go to last year's redshirt freshman Tanner Rust, junior college transfer Matt Christian or maybe even incoming freshman Andrew Manley from Hawaii. While Manley won't be in Las Cruces, N.M., until the summer, he could be given a shot to compete with Rust and Christian, who is the likely frontrunner heading into spring ball.
There are plenty of other holes on the NMSU roster that the spring will need to address, but none nearly as glaring as quarterback.
BUILDING BLOCKS: It will be interesting to see how head coach DeWayne Walker and first year offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar handle their suddenly crowded backfield. The lone offensive bright spot in 2009 was 1,000-yard rusher Seth Smith. Adding junior college All-American Kenny Turner to the mix creates a problem NMSU has rarely faced.
Turner, who has played receiver in the past, could find some time there, but a two-headed running attack with both could make NMSU dangerous -- that is if any sort of a passing game emerges after a 2009 season without one.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We are building a program that Aggie fans can be proud of." -- NMSU head coach DeWayne Walker.STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
2010 OUTLOOK: A three-win season was actually an impressive debut for Walker, even if his team simply looked awful down the stretch. The Aggies' overachieving defense was able to keep New Mexico State competitive in far more games than many expected, and with a year of seasoning under his belt, and a full class of his recruits now ready to go, Walker should have a lot more competitive team in 2010. The Aggies still are far from competing with the top tier teams in the WAC, but it is reasonable to expect they won't be hovering around the bottom of the standings, either.
RB Kenny Turner -- It's possible there has never been a newcomer at NMSU with the same hype surrounding Turner. While it seemed the one spot on the entire field NMSU needed the least help was at running back, when a school like NMSU has a shot at landing a player like Turner, what do you expect?
RB Marquese Dunn -- The 6-2, 220-pounder was a gray-shirt from the 2009 signing class who didn't get a scholarship and enroll at the school until January of 2010. Dunn is a player Walker said he was expecting to see on the field immediately next season, but that was before the signing of junior college All-American Kenny Turner.
DT David Mahoney -- Another junior college transfer, Mahoney is the expected anchor of Walker's defensive front. With all the talk of running backs, fans can't forget Walker is a defense-first guy who has built some strong defenses through the years. At 6-3, 300-pounds, Mahoney is someone Walker sees as a potential all-WAC player.
--Fullerton College RB transfer Kenny Turner was the focus of offseason media attention for NMSU, and his role with the team may not be fully known until fall camp when the staff has had plenty of time to evaluate him and incumbent RB Seth Smith playing together.
Previous Report: 04/09/2010