Alabama’s Dallas Turner trying to stand out in Indy

INDIANAPOLIS — Seems like more than three years ago to Dallas Turner when he rolled into the Alabama Crimson Tide weight room as a self-described “chubby” freshman walking in the shadow of Will Anderson Jr. and Chris Braswell.

One of the top-ranked edge prospects in the 2024 NFL Draft, Turner’s first steps on his pre-draft journey brought him to Lucas Oil Stadium this week where he and Braswell are pushing to stand out from a crowd of 321 like-minded dreamers who just left college.

The NFL Scouting Combine, the annual event built to establish an apples-to-apples scouting protocol for grading prospects, is much more of an emotional and physical gauntlet than the TV production might imply. Defensive linemen and linebackers arrived Sunday or Monday, went through full medical testing with league-approved doctors at one of two local hospitals, and began 30-minute meetings with general managers and coaches of NFL teams.

“I had 12 meetings on my first day,” Turner said Wednesday during the late morning media session.

He’ll have more NFL team meetings to come Wednesday night. A few of his memorable meetings were with the Houston Texans, the team that drafted Anderson No. 3 overall in 2023, the Atlanta Falcons, New York Jets, Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks. Braswell also met with the Texans and Alabama alum DeMeco Ryans early in the week.

The entire linebacker position group gets a pre-dawn wakeup call for drug testing Thursday morning and on-field workouts — bench press, 40-yard dash, short shuttle, vertical jump, broad jump — and position drills start after lunch.

Workouts are where Turner feels at ease. A polished basketball player who played on the same AAU team as Raptors All-Star Scottie Barnes in Florida, Turner is leaving Nike Team Florida glory days and college football behind.

He’s competing with Florida State’s Jared Verse, Penn State’s Chop Robinson — workout freak warning — and Alabama cornerbacks Terrion Arnold and Kool-Aid McKinstry to be the first defensive player drafted in a class likely to be dominated by premium talent at quarterback and wide receiver.

Whether Turner is a 3-4 outside linebacker, his position at Alabama, or a traditional defensive end is a question Anderson heard before the 2023 draft. It will ultimately be answered by his draft position and the scheme that team operates.

Turner said he was out of shape at 260 pounds when he came to campus with “COVID weight” and played at 240 pounds as a true freshman at Alabama. He plans to play in the NFL at 255 pounds — he was 225 as a high school freshman — and feels faster now than he was in the 220s.

“That’s probably the best weight I can move at and feel comfortable and stuff like that,” Turner said. “Compared to the 225 in my freshman season and the 255 at the end of my junior season, I could tell the difference for sure in the strength, power and explosiveness. I feel good at that weight. I feel like that gave me a lot of versatility and can play in any type of scheme.”

When Turner hits the lights at his hotel adjacent the Colts’ homefield on Wednesday night, he’s going to feel like he’s been in town more than three days.

Come Thursday when the lights are on at Lucas Oil Stadium, Turner has every intention of being up for the test he trained for since signing with Alabama.

“Just the culture — I feel like going into this professional level, it probably won’t be nothing new for me because we train as professionals,” Turner said. “It’s like a day-to-day life, just having a schedule and being coached by coach (Nick) Saban every day.”