Going into his fifth game as FIU’s football coach, Saturday’s Conference USA opener against Southern Mississippi, Ron Turner finds himself in the neighborhood of college football’s nadir.
He’s an offensive coach with the worst offense in the country, an offense without a first-quarter first down against other Football Bowl Subdivision teams (and a 34-13 home loss to Bethune-Cookman, an Football Championship Subdivision team). In its past two games against FBS teams, 0-4 FIU has been outscored 110-0. His team is a 17-point underdog to a Southern Miss team coming off a 60-7 loss, the Golden Eagles 16 defeat in a row.
Yet Turner expresses no doubt about the rightness of FIU’s offensive concepts, his coaching staff and approach, and that despite this painful part of the path forward, he believes that it will get better.
Q: Where do you see this program in a year? Two years?
A: “I see it improved in all areas…The first year is always tough even if you have a veteran team. If you have a very young team, it’s even more difficult to put stuff in. Especially this offense. You don’t come in, put it in and in a year, everybody grasps it. So many intricate things are involved, so it takes time. We didn’t go for a quick fix, saying ‘We can do this stuff, let’s do this stuff.’ We’re trying to install something, building for the future. As I said when we played Central Florida, I put their film in and I watch and said, ‘That’s where we want to get to’ They’re big, they’re physical up front. They understand their schemes. They’re very sound. And their guys play their schemes very well. A very disciplined football team. And that’s where we will get to when our guys get a full grasp of what we’re doing as we get them in our system and bring them along physically and mentally.
“I’ve been through this before. It’s a process. We’ll get there. We’re not going to waver, we’re not going to change. What we believe in, what we’re doing works. It’s a matter of getting the right people in place, getting them all to understand it and execute it. That’ll come. All of a sudden the light will go on, it’ll click — ‘Aw, now I get it. It’s so easy.’ Until that light goes on, it’s not easy. It’s far from easy.
Q: When you looked at the roster in the spring and summer did you foresee the first four games going the way they have?
A: “No. I knew we were going to be very young. I knew we were going to be very raw. I knew it was going to take a while to get everything to jell. But I didn’t foresee that some of the guys who aren’t with us wouldn’t be with us. (FIU’s best running back, senior Kedrick Rhodes; cornerback, junior Richard Leonard; wide receivers, seniors Willis Wright and Glenn Coleman were academically ineligible or dismissed after arrests.) How much of a difference that would make, I don’t know. If they’re not going to win off the field and do what they’re supposed to do, you can’t count on them on the field. If guys aren’t going to class, not doing what they’re supposed to do, get suspended for disciplinary reasons, they’re not going to help us win on the field because come the fourth quarter, end of the game, they’re going to let you down. I’m a very firm believer in that. We’re probably better off they’re not out there with us, to be honest with you, because all they would do is let us down, even though they’re talented. But it takes more than talent to be a great player and to be a winner. Everyone has some of that on the team. We had way too much. And that’s what we’re getting corrected.”