Carolina Panthers

NFL Scouting Combine: UNC guard Landon Turner still ‘chasing dreams’

The NFL Scouting Combine's Only Tar Heel

Offensive tackle Landon Turner on being the only Tar Heel at the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
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Offensive tackle Landon Turner on being the only Tar Heel at the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

It wasn’t hard to find North Carolina’s contingent at the scouting combine this week.

It consisted of one player – guard Landon Turner.

But that’s one more than what the Tar Heels sent to Indy last year when they weren’t represented at all. NCAA sanctions and scholarship losses have impacted the draft prospects at a school that had seven players taken in the first round between 2008-2014, although Turner believes the tide is turning.

“There’s a few names that come to mind that will be here in future years. And I hope that even further down the line that we’re coming back,” Turner said. “North Carolina has had a lot of people in the combine before, had a lot of people be successful and I would anticipate seeing that more in the future because we just kind of got the ball rolling.”

Turner, 6-foot-4 and 330 pounds, is projected to be a mid- to late-round pick after earning all-ACC honors as a senior. Turner started 41 career games and had three with double-digit totals for pancake blocks, according to coaches’ stats.

When Turner was in first grade he drew a picture of himself sleeping under a football comforter for an art assignment in which students shared their dreams. At the bottom of the drawing Turner wrote: “I dreamed I was a football player in the NFL.”

The picture is framed and hanging in his room at his Virginia home, and he keeps a photo of it on his iPhone.

“My mom’s big on chasing dreams. She always encouraged that. That’s why she framed it,” Turner said. “It’s pretty cool.”

Three things we learned

▪  Ole Miss defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche had the strangest combine press conference in recent memory. He stumbled through his explanation of how and why he fell off a hotel balcony in December by saying he was drunk and denied that he was on drugs despite getting charged with possession of marijuana. He then said his former teammate and projected No. 1 pick Laremy Tunsil was in the room, but only after he said the drugs weren’t his but someone else’s in the room and that “no one took the fall” and he was charged since it was his room. Nkemdiche has top-five talent but he could fall way down the draft board.

▪  Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones weighs 253 pounds and believes it’s a good weight. “I don’t think it’s too big for a quarterback. You’ve got four or five guys starting in the NFL who are that size or bigger.” True, but Jones’ frame is closer to Jameis Winston than Cam Newton.

▪  RB Keith Marshall didn’t get to do much at Georgia due to a knee injury and the presence of Nick Chubb and Todd Gurley. But the Raleigh native put on a show here, pumping out 25 reps in the 225-pound bench press and blistering the 40 in 4.31 seconds, the fastest time of the day. Terrell Davis, anyone?

By the numbers

11 3/4 inch hands for Oregon defensive end DeForest Buckner, which are seemingly large enough to palm just about anything.

5.00 second 40-yard dash from Michigan State tackle Jack Conklin, who shouldn’t be available at No. 30 when the Panthers pick.

4.54 second 40-yard dash by Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry, the Alabama RB who measured 6-foot-3 and 247 pounds.

Observations

▪  Tunsil, who could be the No. 1 pick, said earlier this week he would run a sub-5 second 40-yard dash. On Friday he opted not to run at all. So much for the big talk.

▪  Oklahoma receiver Sterling Shepard already met with the Panthers this week. Carolina has a need at slot receiver, and he said Carolina likes his big-play ability.

▪  Several Panthers officials cleaned up on the awards circuit here this week. Joe Kenn was voted strength coach of the year by his peers, while Ryan Vermillion and Robert Anderson were honored as the top athletic trainer and team physician, respectively, by the NFL Physicians Society.

They said it

“After meeting with NFL coaches you guys are nothing.” – Ohio State DE Joey Bosa, who drew laughs from reporters with that comment and several others in which he displayed a dry sense of humor.

“You get annoyed every once in while with the media, just asking you questions. No I was just ready to play. Everyone, the team kept talking trash. I was ready to play. I was tired of talking to the media.” – Alabama DT A’Shawn Robinson when asked about his dislike for the media comments before the national title game.

“My motor was non-stop. Best in this draft.” – Arizona LB Scooby Wright.

What’s next

Saturday’s highlight: All of the top quarterbacks are expected to throw Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium, which should add some excitement to the proceedings. South Carolina’s Pharoh Cooper will be among the wideouts on the receiving end of those passes.

Combine on TV: Beginning at 9 a.m., NFL Network.

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