Tyler Turner is wrapping up a busy weekend.
After meeting with the players at his new football team at Liberty Tech on Friday afternoon, he was headed back to his current home in Wynne, Ark., to pick up his things.
“I’ll be back in Jackson Monday working and getting started,” said the 29-year-old rookie head coach.
There’s still plenty to do as the Crusaders’ spring practice is set to start two weeks from Monday. The coaching staff is not 100 percent confirmed. The day-to-day schedule of spring ball isn’t totally set other than an intrasquad scrimmage to end the offseason session. Turner still isn’t sure who all is on his roster after being in the same room with them for a little while.
“I know they were a good-looking bunch,” Turner said. “I know Liberty is a program that’s been one of the better conditioned teams around this area, and I plan to continue that.”
Along with serving as assistant head coach, defensive coordinator, linebackers coach and wide receivers coach, Turner also ran the strength and conditioning program at Wynne High School. The work the program put in while in the weight room allowed the athletes to win championships in weight competitions, garner interest from coaches from other states and recognition in Bigger, Faster, Stronger Magazine.
“They came down and did a feature on us last year about how we go about doing things,” Turner said. “And we put in a lot of work – a lot of work.
“But the players were willing to put in the work that needed to be done for all that, but more importantly to be successful on the football field. I believe you can win two or three games in a season based on conditioning alone. So I plan on us being in position to do that.”
Defensive coordinator and linebackers were two integral duties Turner had in Wynne, but Turner admits offense is more in his wheelhouse.
“I’ve coached wide receivers my entire career,” Turner said. “But we got to a point where [Wynne head coach Chris Hill] wanted to put me over the defense because he knew I’d coach them with a lot of fire and bring a little more enthusiasm to that side of the ball.
“He said I had three weeks to learn how to coach inside linebackers, and then we’d get started.”
Those three weeks to learn about the inside linebacker position started a stretch in which all the television Turner watched for eight months was some kind of football film, but he said that helped him become a coach who feels ready to take over a program with the recent success the Crusaders have enjoyed.
“I just spent that time taking in what I could and trying to learn what I could about anything, which is what I’m always trying to do,” Turner said. “I’ve been to camps all over the region and tried to learn different philosophies on both sides of the ball to see what would work for me.
“I’ve worked with Hal Mumme, who’s an innovator in the air attack, and Kenny Wheaton, who’s at Harding University now but coached for years in Texas high school football and has helped advance the triple-option game. And I’ve gotten the chance to work with some of the best high school coaches in Arkansas and even some guys around here in West Tennessee on improving defensive coaching.”
Turner said he’s looking forward to the difficult schedule that’s been a hallmark of Liberty Tech football since Hookfin took over the program in 2007. It begins with the Crusaders’ now-traditional opening opponent from Henry County (who will also have a debuting head coach on that night with James Counce, Jr.). And there are new region opponents like Milan, Westview, South Gibson and Dyersburg.
“Milan has been a state power for as long as I can remember,” said Turner, who is a 2004 graduate of Obion County Central High. “And of course Westview and Dyersburg are a couple of programs who are really good every year.
“That just goes back to the work. We’ve got to put that in to stay with these programs and be ready to play them come August. But hopefully I’m used to it. I told some of the players that while we saw success at Wynne, it took a lot of work. It felt like we put 14 years of work into four.”
Under the leadership of Chris Hill, Turner was part of a staff who turned the Wynne program around from 15 wins in the previous four years before their arrival to 42 in the last four with a state title game appearance last year.
“Liberty is a program that’s on the verge of seeing that kind of success,” Turner said. “I hope I’m a part of it.”
Brandon Shields, 425-9751