Dudley E. Dawson is a reporter for Hawgs Illustrated. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a voter for the Heisman Trophy.
Fayetteville's Turner seeks Purple'Dog revival
Springdale running back Gilberto Dominguez (left) is brought down Friday, Oct. 25, 2019, by Fayetteville defender Kaiden Turner (21) during the first half of play at Jarrell Williams Bulldog Stadium in Springdale.
FAYETTEVILLE Fayetteville junior linebacker and Arkansas 2022 recruiting target Kaiden Turner (6-2, 220) took the field Monday for his team’s first official practice and quickly noticed something.
“The energy level was through the roof,” Turner said of some 130 players in camp for the Purple'Dogs. “From players on the field even to the guys on the sideline, we looked way better then I was expecting for our first practice.”
Turner, who joins wide receiver Isaiah Sategna (5-11, 170) as Fayetteville juniors who have Arkansas offers, is eager to wipe out Fayetteville’s 2019 season from his memory.
A program that won 33 games from 2014-16 and nine in 2018 is used to better than a .500 mark.
“I felt like a lot of players didn’t buy in the way they should have last season and that’s why we went 6-6,” Turner said. “That is not Fayetteville football. That is not what we expect. We are away better than that and there’s no way we should end up with a record like that with all the talent that we have come through the program.”
Turner, who had 95 tackles and 5.5 sacks as a sophomore in 2019 for Purple'Dogs first-year head coach Casey Dick, was hyperfocused during the offseason.
“I have been killing it in the weight room, lifting weights and working on my footwork and doing some ball drills,” Turner said. “Really it’s just been anything that could make me better as a player and help us to be a better team. I am just trying to better myself.
“I feel like I am pretty fast. I work really well with my hands, but that is also what I am trying to get better at. I want to make sure nobody can block me so I can make plays.”
The highlight of the summer for Turner was becoming one of nine in-state 2022 prospects to get an offer from Arkansas, adding to earlier offers from Kansas and Indiana.
“I had been talking to the (Arkansas) coaches for a while and I was just waiting for it, waiting for it, waiting for it and then one day it finally happened,” Turner said. “That was awesome when it came and I was super excited.”
Dick, the 34-year-old former Razorbacks quarterback, came to Fayetteville after leading Van Buren to its first playoff berth in eight years in 2018.
Fayetteville lost three of its first four games last season, but rebounded to win five of its last eight.
That included a 44-14 win over Cabot in the opening round of the Class 7A state playoffs. The Purple'Dogs also became the first team all season to not trail at halftime to back-to-back state champion Bryant before falling 42-14.
Fayetteville opens the season Aug. 28 at Conway before its home opener with Owasso, Okla., on Sept. 4.
“I feel like we lost a lot of talent, but I feel like all the other teams did as well,” Turner said. “I feel like we are all kind of in the same boat. We are trying to figure out who is going to play what positions and who is going to step up.
"I think we have a lot of young kids who can play, so I’m excited about it.”
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