Turbin worth a look if Bush walks


Note: Meant to post this yesterday before signing off for a week but was derailed by a Southwest Airlines WiFi that was slower then the early days of dial-up . . .

The vibe I’m getting is that the Raiders have zero intention of franchising leading rusher Michael Bush, given their commitment to a normal salary structure and the presence of strong safety Tyvon Branch also as an unrestricted free agent. Coach Dennis Allen has talked up Darren McFadden, which means he’s the feature back, and there’s no way the Raiders commit more than $7 million to a complementary back.

And that’s probably what Bush is. He did an admirable job taking over when McFadden’s mid-foot sprain derailed his season, with one of the best games any Raiders’ running back (Marcus, Bo, Napoleon Kaufman, you name it) has ever had again the San Diego Chargers. While it’s conceivable Bush numbers tailed off toward the end of the season because the Raiders became more predictable or the line wasn’t blocking as well, the fact is it happened.

So maybe it’s possible other teams see this during the free agency period and Bush comes back at a reasonable price if there is no big bounty to be had. Usually, however, one of 31 teams will ante up.

If so, keep the name Robert Turbin in mind. He was the subject of my Monday story in Bay Area News Group papers and is a Bay Area product who has flown under the radar after helping two institutions without much of a reputation for football success into winners. He did it at Fremont’s Irvington High School, a perennial also-ran which won a league title and in consecutive years advanced to the North Coast Section finals and semifinals.

Turbin did it at Utah State, which went 7-6 in his junior year _ the first winning season for the school since 1993. After missing the previous season with a torn ACL, Turbin was the Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year after rushing for 1,517 yards and 19 touchdowns. Check him out on YouTube and you’ll find him leveling some tacklers and breaking into the open field and finishing some long runs as well. He can catch out of the backfield or downfield. He can block, and at 5-foot-10, 220 pounds has been called the best built back in the draft outside of Alabama’s Trent Richardson.

His high school coach, Bob Spain, called coaching Turbin a “once in a lifetime” experience and said, “he’s what happens when genetics meets work ethic.”

Despite his breakaway runs, which indicates he is faster on game day than in a track setup, Turbin’s 40-yard dash time was a concern. It’s not any longer, as he ran a respectable 4.5 flat at the combine. Whether that puts Turbin out of reach for the Raiders remains to be seen. They’ll pick No. 97 at the earliest after supplemental picks are awarded at the NFL owner’s meetings next month.

If Bush moves on, it seems awfully risky to leave their running game in the hands of McFadden and Taiwan Jones, given their recent injury history. As Allen noted, offensive coordinator Greg Knapp has gotten a lot of yards out of a lot of different runners with different styles.

Turbin is confident _ “A lot of people compare me to Marshall Faulk and Steven Jackson” _ without being cocky. He’s engaging and earnest, a player Spain said never took a day off and lifted the play of everyone around him. He was such a devastating defensive player in high school he was the MVAL defensive player of the year as a junior and Spain advised him to take a scholarship offer to Boise State to be a safety. That means he’d probably be a beast on special teams, a role Turbin said he would love.

The NFL is full of mid-round running backs who flourish in the right system. Keep in mind Bush was a fourth-round pick because of a severely broken ankle at Louisville.

Turbin could end up being that kind of story for somebody.


Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer

  • alzadoX

    Rarely get value in trades – keep McFadden (unless offer we can’t refuse). Bush likely to be too expensive to keep as backup.

    I checked out the You Tube clips of Robert Turbin. Based on the film I would expect him to go around the middle of the draft (~round 4), but he’s had some injury problems. He looks like the kind of runner who can be effective in a zone blocking system; and if he can learn to run underneath his pads and become more decisive picking holes inside he could improve as a runner. He is not too quick nor explosive and a little tight, not real fluid, not an elite athlete but is a good athlete, not always pretty to watch but stays on his feet. I agree he would project as a good special teams player. Could be a good fit for the Raiders if he’s available in the mid rounds or later.

    The most impressive thing about him was the way he catches the ball. There were clips of him plucking the ball in stride running downfield, catching the ball over his shoulder like a WR. He runs tough and can dip his shoulder and smack some defenders downfield and looks like he has some vision when he has running space. However, he needs some space to operate, doesn’t seem to be able to attack the creases running inside/ confined spaces – appears slow to pick the hole, a little indecisive hitting up the gut, not quick starting or accelerating, and often runs upright into the line and loses a lot of explosion on impact because he’s not running under his pads (though he is a tough guy and will fight hard for yardage after contact and he’s strong especially in the upper body). He could improve considerably with coaching in his weaker areas and probably would need to be a good pro runner. I don’t see him breaking a lot of big runs in the pros like he did in the WAC. I only saw him block on one play in the clips, how do you know he’s a good blocker?

    I doubt that Reggie McKenzie would pick a guy based on him being local, but on the You Tube sequence another guy came up from Boise St. via Stockton Doug Martin who looks like more of a sure thing. He has a smaller body than Turbin much quicker hitting the holes inside and can catch short passes facing the QB. Stocky build instinctive runner good toughness.

    Also saw You Tube clips of Trent Richardson. Looks like the next LaDanian Tomlinson

  • Mark Roy

    With our late drafts pick I don’t us picking a RB first. We need a DB and OL who can start on Day 1.

  • alzadoX

    # 352 Mark Roy Says:
    February 28th, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    With our late drafts pick I don’t us picking a RB first. We need a DB and OL who can start on Day 1.

    With picks starting at the end of round 3, pretty hard to get guys you can count on to start as rookies. If we resign Barnes, why do we need OL? If Barnes and Satele leave, Joe Barksdale has a shot at starting, so does Heyer. Bruce Campbell needs to start producing. He probably belongs at tackle

    We certainly need immediate help at CB and Dennis Allen has already stated that’s a priority so they’re sure to address it

    D esp. DB & LB needs help; who stays and who goes will determine how much where