COLUMBIA -- Football terms rarely change and a lot of times they stay the same for decades — the Oklahoma Drill in 1989 is the same Oklahoma Drill in 2019 and so on — but every now and again, a new word or term jumps into a coach’s lexicon and makes everyone hearing it do a double take.
That’s what happened this past week with Coleman Hutzler, who dropped a never-before-heard term when describing the Gamecocks’ Swiss Army knife AJ Turner.
“AJ’s a War Daddy, man. He’s a guy that’s been a great player for us on offense, shoot played defense last year and for us on special teams,” he said. “He’s 100 miles per hour all the time. That’s why we love him.”
Now, when asked, Turner had absolutely zero clue what a War Daddy was or is, and his guess — a player who helps out on special teams — was nowhere close.
But the Internet stays undefeated and produced a definition for the term thanks to Urban Dictionary: “A term used to describe a particularly impressive football player, mostly offensive linemen of substantial girth. Originated in the deep south and used primarily by southern football coaches.”
Looking at Turner — who’s listed at 5-foot-10, 190 pounds — the definition may not be exactly applicable, but if you pay attention to the “particularly impressive” part things start to make sense.
“AJ’s starting out he’s going to play corner and some nickel,” head coach Will Muschamp said. “He’s still going to have a role on offense and in the return game. He’s been a demon on return coverage and he’ll continue to do that. He’ll play a lot of spots.”
For those keeping score at home, that means Turner will be playing in all three phases this season, potentially all three in the same game.
He has played in 37 games through three seasons with 11 career starts, all at running back. He split time last season at defensive back and is taking first-team reps this fall at the nickel position.
But the thing he might be most excited about is being heir apparent to Deebo Samuel on kickoff return.
“I’ve been waiting,” Turner said, flashing a smile. “Just being to the side and blocking, which is not a problem. I’m all for the team, I’m all for winning and whatever’s going to make us win. But to be able to have the ball and maneuver feels good because I’ve definitely been waiting for this moment.”
Turner has experience, returning 28 kicks for 592 yards (21.1 yards per return) and seems to be the favorite through the first two weeks of camp to land the starting spot vacated by Samuel.
He’s excited for the opportunity to affect the game in more than one way, learning a lot from watching the electrifying Samuel the last few seasons.
“Catch the ball, see the hole, hit the hole. No dancing,” he said. “That’s how you get laid out.”
When asked how many snaps he could play over a game, Turner didn’t seem to know an exact number, throwing out 70% as a possibility before quickly realizing what all that would entail and correcting it to about 65% of all snaps in a game.
Right now he’s working almost exclusively on defense and special teams and said he could jump back to running back relatively seamlessly if the coaches needed him to.
“No,” he said on if he’d need to rep at running back before playing it again, “but I’d like it, personally, so I’m not just thrown in the fire to have some refreshers.”
Turner has chiseled out his role entering his final year of eligibility, being a do-it-all type of player for the Gamecocks and a team-first, dependable guy the coaches can depend on in all three phases.
While Turner nor the coaches know how much he’ll actually play once the season starts, what they do know is he’ll have an impact wherever he goes.
So while there’s no “substantial girth” to Turner, what he’s doing is pretty impressive.
“He’s a valuable member of the team. He’s got a unique skill set and he’s as competitive as they come. He’s a selfless, team-first guy,” nickels coach Kyle Krantz said. “He’s going to do whatever we need him to do to help the team win. He’ll take as many snaps as he needs to on offense, defense, special teams to help us win.”