Freshman QB Zion Turner shows promising future with UConn football

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The UConn football team takes on Central Connecticut State University at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field in their second game of the season on Saturday September 4. The Huskies beat the Blue Devils 28-3, and will play their next game against Syracuse on Saturday, September 10. Photo by Erin Knapp / The Daily Campus.

The UConn football team is the closest they have ever been to competing in a bowl game since 2015: the last time they accomplished this feat. Freshman quarterback Zion Turner is determined to get them there. 

Turner assumed the starting role after sophomore quarterback Ta’Quan Roberson suffered a torn ACL in the Huskies’ season opener against Utah State. Despite the unexpected start to his collegiate football career, Turner knew he would be able to step up. 

“I’ve always been confident,” said Turner. “I’ve always felt like I’m the best quarterback in the nation. I’ll always feel like that and there will never be anybody to tell me otherwise.” 

The 18-year-old Florida native came to UConn after an impressive career at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, which boasts one of the best high school football programs in the nation. Turner started 39 games as quarterback for the Raiders, leading them to three back-to-back state championships, a national championship and a record of 37-2 across three seasons. 

At St. Thomas Aquinas, Turner racked up 4,951 passing yards, 59 touchdowns and just 18 interceptions out of 590 passing attempts, completing 62.5% of his passes. He rushed for 990 yards and 31 more touchdowns. Turner received offers from multiple schools in Power 5 conferences, but he opted to take his talents to Storrs to play under first-year head coach Jim Mora to help turn the program around. 

“He’s fun to coach because he’s a hard-working young man. He wants to be good,” said Mora. “He studies the game, it’s important to him, he’s all in all the time. He just really has a great desire to improve and get better every single day, so he’s easy to coach.” 

Turner’s willingness to learn has not only benefited his coaches, but has also allowed him to take away some valuable personal lessons from his first season with the Huskies. 

“Just always have the mentality of the next six seconds, just trying to get through to the next play. Don’t put things behind you because you’re always going to go back and look at them to review mistakes and things like that, but just always keep moving in a forward, upward direction,” said Turner on what he has learned so far. “Just always look at your mistakes as ways for you to learn and to approach the game in a better way.” 

Since Turner took over as quarterback, he has led the team to their current record of 5-5, the program’s best in seven years. They now sit just one win away from bowl game eligibility. 

“In fall camp, we had an offensive meeting, and Coach [Mora] asked what was one of my hopes going into the season. The first thing I told the team is that I want to take this team to a bowl game,” said Turner. “I’m a man of my word, so I’ve been staying behind it and trying to do my best in getting us [there].” 

The coveted bowl game appearance is not just a personal goal, but a team goal. 

“Everyone wants to play another game after the season,” said Turner. “No one wants to just go home and no one wants to be playing meaningless games right now. We’re actually playing for something right now and we’re able to use that as motivation to get us through these games.” 

The Huskies will take on Liberty at home this Saturday and will travel to face Army the following weekend to conclude their regular 2022 season. So far, Turner has thrown for 1,023 yards and eight touchdowns, completing 111 of 186 pass attempts. But he’s not done yet, and his development as a player extends beyond the numbers. 

“At times you see real growth spurts and then you see a little regression, and I think that’s just very normal for a young quarterback playing at this level,” Coach Mora said. “But there seems to me to be an upward trend, even when he doesn’t have a great game throwing the ball. He’s become more decisive as a quarterback both in the run game and the pass game. He’s become a little bit more vocal as a leader, although I still think the way he leads is by example, and I think that’s what is most impactful towards players.” 

Turner has full faith that he can use his sharpened leadership skills to get himself and his team to where they want to be.  

“There’s never going to be a time where I’m playing football and I’m not feeling like I can go out there and win for my team,” said Turner. “I think that’s something that’s just in me.” 

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