Kemoko Turay turning into playmaker at Rutgers
Oct. 14, 2014
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — When Kemoko Turay of Rutgers started playing football his senior year of high school, the first defensive end he followed was Jason Pierre-Paul.
It was fitting, considering the parallels of the two players — both didn't turn to football until late in high school but became playmakers.
Pierre-Paul played two years in junior college before going to South Florida for a year. He left for the NFL and was drafted 15th overall by the New York Giants in 2010.
"Jason Pierre-Paul's got the similar background as me, so I kind of look up to him and see what he did to succeed," Turay said. "What he did was hard work and just keep working hard through hard times and succeeding."
While Turay didn't go the junior college route, he's an unheralded recruit who is becoming a college star.
Heading into Saturday's game at No. 13 Ohio State, Turay leads the Big Ten Conference with 5½ sacks. He also leads the nation with three blocked kicks, the last one sealing a 26-24 win over Michigan two weeks ago.
Not bad for a situational player. But that's not a surprise to anyone who has watched him.
During a summer camp in 2012, Turay caught the eye of Scarlet Knights coach Kyle Flood by beating an offensive lineman during one-on-one drills. Flood asked Turay to go again, and he did, getting the same result. His impressive camp got him a scholarship offer on the spot. His only one.
He redshirted as a freshman, but quickly contributed this year, recording two sacks in the season opener at Washington State.
"I still can't believe it. It's still unreal to me," Turay said. "Just by me working hard in practice and getting my techniques together and just bringing that to the game, and I'm just expecting to do more.
"Everyone's like 'oh, he's the top of the nation in blocks,' but I'm not actually satisfied. I've got to do more. I have to get better. I have to accomplish more things. There's certain mistakes I've been doing that I'm not happy with because I expect more of myself."
So do his teammates. They know the 6-foot-6, 235-pounder from Newark hasn't even begun to tap into his full potential. His natural abilities — including a broad jump over 10-feet at Rutgers camp a couple of summers ago — draw his teammates attention.
"I've never seen anybody who can bend and pass rush at the same time as well as he can. You watch him in a one-on-one pass rush and you know you can't do those moves," defensive lineman David Milewski said. "(Defensive line) coach (Jim) Panagos has to coach him a little differently than everybody else because his toolbox is a little bit bigger."
As high as Milewski and his teammates are on Turay, the senior captain is making sure the redshirt freshman stays grounded.
"We're just trying to keep him focused and make sure that he continues to get better because he needs to understand that his potential is still so much higher than where he is at right now," Milewski said. "That's the most exciting thing. He is having success right now, but there is still so much more for him to improve on. That's honestly the most exciting thing about Kemoko is his future is very bright as long as he puts in the time and commits to getting better."
Rutgers (5-1, 1-1 Big Ten) is going to need some more big plays from Turay when it faces the Buckeyes (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten).
"I feel like I'm still far away," Turay said. "Right now it's just all athletic. I want to play smarter in the game so I can create more plays and stuff and put myself in position to be in first down and second down instead of just third down."