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Oct. 20, 2003

By Douglas Adams, USC Sports Information

Hart Turner came to South Carolina in 2000 after playing tight end and defensive end at Dorman High School in Spartanburg, S.C. At Dorman, Turner caught 16 passes for 203 yards and five touchdowns but those numbers were limited as he spent most of the season battling through injuries. Turner fought through his setbacks and helped his teammates to the 1999 AAAA State Championship game. After the state title game, Turner committed to joining Coach Lou Holtz and his staff at USC.

“I came to South Carolina because it was close to home and playing for Coach Holtz would be an honor,” stated Turner. “I really believe that when everyone comes in, Coach Holtz plays an important part in their decision.”

During his first season in Columbia, Turner was a reserve tight end but played in 11 of 12 games. He caught the first reception of his career against Alabama as a freshman, but after that catch, Turner would wait two more years to catch another pass despite appearing in 11 games in 2001.

In 2002, Turner established himself as the starting tight end as he started in nine of 12 games for the Gamecocks. He caught four passes for 35 yards on the season, including his first collegiate touchdown on a 26-yard pass from Corey Jenkins against Mississippi State. Turner knew his role during the first three years of his Gamecock career was more as a blocker. He spent a majority of that time with the offensive line but after the 2002 season, offensive coordinator/assistant head coach Skip Holtz looked at the offense and decided to get the tight end position more involved in the game plan.

Turner has shown versatility during his senior season. Instead of lining up solely at the line of scrimmage and on the end of the offensive line, Turner has been moved around more ahead of the snap, lining up in the slot at receiver and being put into motion ahead of the play. As a result, Turner has seen an increase in productivity and he has become a viable threat in the USC offensive scheme. Entering the LSU game, he ranks second on the team with 11 receptions and fourth with 115 receiving yards. Turner gives Gamecock quarterback Dondrial Pinkins another target when his wide receivers are not open.

“I am excited to be more involved on offense but being more involved really does not matter because I’ll do anything to help the team win,” said Turner. “I do admit that getting the ball is more fun. My first three seasons here, I was really an extra blocker and worked out with the offensive line. Now I work with the receivers and the offensive line and having the opportunity to go out and catch passes gives defenses something else to look out for. The transition to becoming more of a receiver has been difficult because I was primarily a blocker. Now I move around a lot to get the ball.”

Besides learning and adapting to be a receiver, Turner is also taking over the responsibilities of co-captain on the 2003 football team. Originally Turner was not a captain, but after co-captains Dunta Robinson, Travelle Wharton, and Jeremiah Garrison talked to Coach Holtz about nominating him, Turner quickly became the fourth co-captain.

“It is a big honor, and I was really surprised when I got nominated,” said Turner. “As a co-captain you have to be a leader and I look forward to that challenge each week because I want to make plays and help everyone else get up for the game.”

Turner will graduate with a degree in biology but plans to continue his education as he sets sights of going to medical school and then physical therapy school. Until then, his primary goal for the rest of the season is to help the team in any way he can and help get the Gamecocks back into a postseason bowl game.