Created:Tuesday, April 15, 2014 11:12 p.m.CDT

NIU’s Turner up to speed at wide receiver

Monica Maschak - Aregeros Turner

DeKALB – Aregeros Turner’s time at Northern Illinois didn’t get off to the best start.

Roughly a month after Turner, rated a three-star athlete by Rivals, signed with the Huskies, the man who recruited him to DeKalb – Roy Manning, left to become linebackers coach at Michigan, his alma mater. Manning accepted the job in Ann Arbor, Mich. less than two months after being named NIU’s running backs coach.

Manning recruited Turner to Cincinnati when he was the Bearcats’ running backs coach in 2012, and continued recruiting him at NIU. But before Manning could actually coach Turner, he was gone.

However, there were other reasons Turner had signed with NIU.

“It was tough. We had a good relationship, but I committed to the school instead of the coach,” Turner said after the Huskies’ practice Tuesday at the Chessick Center. “I came here on a visit, I liked the atmosphere. I liked how everyone was a family.”

While he was recruited as an athlete, Turner expected to be lining up in the Huskies’ backfield. But when he arrived on campus the coaching staff told Turner they wanted him to play wide receiver, feeling his size (he came to campus at 165 pounds) would work better out there.

The only experience the Akron, Ohio, native had at wideout was when he would run a couple of fly routes here and there in high school. He still made his way on to the field as a true freshman, catching eight passes in 11 games.

Turner missed some time early this spring because of a hamstring injury, but he’s been able to take a lot of reps to fine-tune his receiving skills, working on his footwork and route-running.

“Coming here it was all new to me,” Turner said. “Just learning different stuff and how to run routes was basically the hardest thing.”

Wide receivers coach Thad Ward said that despite his lack of experience at receiver, Turner catches the ball well.

He’s also a player who can get into the backfield and take the ball on jet sweeps. Ward said Turner could end up being a player similar to TommyLee Lewis.

“I think he can. He’s a very intelligent guy for the first part. He understands all five [wideout] positions ... which is good,” Ward said. “That was really good for him [in 2013]. Right now, he’s still knocking out some of the rust because he didn’t practice all spring. But he’s a very smart guy, and we’ve just got to continue to clean him up so we can get better with him. He’s going to be a big part of our offense this year I would say.”

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