Colts 2022 Draft Interviews: Delarrin Turner-Yell, S, Oklahoma
Delarrin Turner-Yell is a former three-star freshman from Hempstead High School in Hempstead, Texas. He originally committed to Baylor after high school, but moved to Oklahoma before signing day.
I asked Turner-Yell why he ultimately chose to play for the Sooners:
At first, I wanted to stay close to home. Texas A&M and TCU didn’t offer, but Baylor eventually did. They’re only about an hour and forty-five minutes from my house, so I knew I could always be close to my family if they wanted to come see me play. So I ended up signing up with Baylor.
Oklahoma had invited me to an annual barbecue they hold every year for recruiting, so I ended up going for the visit. While I was in Oklahoma, some stuff happened with Baylor. I guess they were disappointed that I was there and withdrew their offer.
Lots of schools offered, but the only two teams behind that still spoke to me were Utah and Oklahoma. It was honestly like love at first sight when I went on this tour and knew I wanted to be in Oklahoma.
Turner-Yell made an immediate impact on the team, playing seven games as a true freshman. His career was marred by injuries every season, but it all finally came together for him as a senior.
He finished the year with 52 tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss and three interceptions while named to the All Big 12 Second-Team roster. I asked him what it was like to finally mount a season like the one he had just had:
It was amazing, it was really good. Even though I had to deal with a hamstring injury in the middle of the season, everything fell into place. Before the start of last season, I started to reflect on the things I did and looked at areas where I could grow.
That’s what really led me to have the season that I had. I was able to trust myself no matter what. I knew after last season that I was going to have to be put in this situation regardless because when you go to the NFL, you have to believe in yourself.
Just thinking about it has opened my eyes to a lot of things. I started a little slow last season in the first games. I was getting production, but I’m hard on myself. The West Virginia game is where he started to pick up. I started hot in the first half, had an interception to start the second quarter, and that carried over into the second half.
I ended up hurting myself in the second half. With this break I had with the injury, I thought back to the games I played before I got injured. I knew there was something else I could tap into and reach another level to achieve the goals I wanted to achieve.
I was just locked in after that and really focused on what I wanted to be. It helped me get the season that I ended up having.
Interchangeable safety set
The safe game in the NFL isn’t what it used to be. It used to be that there were free safeties and strong safeties all over the league, but the NFL has moved to teams with interchangeable backline players.
I asked Turner-Yell why he thought it was so important for security to be able to do everything on the backend:
It’s a huge part of today’s game because teams will plot against a weak DB. If they see you’re a bad tackler, they’ll set up games where you have to tackle. If you can find a guy, like me, who can play in the box when needed, that can really benefit the team.
I’ve always been the type of player who likes tackles and contact. The most important thing for me when I got to college was improving coverage and locking receivers. Before college, I didn’t have to cover receivers, I just ran around punching people. Once I improved on this, I knew my game could take it to the next level, as it opened many doors for me.
Another reason why this is so important is that there is a lot of RPO in the game today. With all these RPOs, having a guy who can cover and make big hits is really needed on the backend.
Just being versatile opens many doors for gamers. Even guys coming out of high school, I feel like they have to make sure that’s the type of game they play. You want to be known as a guy who can do it all. These are the guys who have long careers in the NFL.
talk about a movie
Talking about film with a player like Turner-Yell is a little different from some of the other positions I’ve interviewed so far. Offensive linemen or corners focus on their individual games, but a safety must be able to see the whole field.
I asked Turner-Yell what his film study week was like for safety:
First of all, I would look at all the best concepts of the team that we are going to play. I would note the pieces they like to play the most. The way we would break down the movie was how often (the opposing offense) is in a certain formation. Once they’re in certain formations, we look at what they like about those sets.
Once I had the big picture, I would look at smaller things. Like what every receiver likes to do, the way the quarterback looks when he throws certain things, and stuff like that. Then, after observing this, I would break it down even further.
I would put myself in different calls and see what guy I should cover in those different calls. When I can look at those matches, I’ll study when the receiver interrupts its route, how it executes its routes, and I’ll start dissecting it like that.
Whenever I won’t be a half-court player, I’ll study quarterback. Will he stand there and look at his options or will he try to look away from me? After that, I would text the corners to let them know what the offense likes to miss from certain sets. This way we can communicate and alert about certain things in the field.
All that cinematic work allows us to be able to anticipate the things the offense is going to do.
Throughout this interview, Turner-Yell constantly mentioned the ways he communicates with his teammates. So I decided to find out a bit about how he has evolved in the leadership role he has held over the past year.
I asked him if stepping into a vocal leadership position was an easy transition for him as a senior:
I’ll be honest with you, it wasn’t easy for me. I’m the type of guy who will give you the answer if you come to see me one-on-one, but I’m more of a guy who would lead by example in a group setting. As the older guy in the program, I needed to do more than just lead by example over the past year.
It was difficult at first because I was afraid that I could speak so that the guys could understand what I was saying. So, I started pulling the guys aside one by one, because it’s easier to get their attention there than in a group.
I would let them know I was there to answer any questions they needed. I would let them know they could come to me with anything. One day I was in their shoes as a young man in the room who needed help.
I just wanted these guys to feel comfortable with me. They could come to me with anything, not just on the pitch, and I would do whatever I could to help them. In football, mental health plays a huge role in everything. I wanted to let them know that I would help them in any way I could.
Once I was able to do it individually, I was able to move it as part of the group. Doing it this way made it much easier for them to pay attention and follow my lead in these group settings.
I ended the interview the same way I ended them all. I asked Turner-Yell how he would sell to a team this offseason. I asked him what my team would get, on and off the field, if they drafted him:
Off the pitch, they find a guy they won’t have to worry about what he does in his spare time. I’ve seen a lot of guys get hurt doing things off the field, and being able to play in the NFL has been a dream of mine for too long to throw it off the field. They get a guy who is disciplined on and off the court.
A guy who is always looking to give back to the community. I was once that kid who looked up to NFL players, and I want to be that kind of role model for a kid with a dream. I take every opportunity I have to go out and talk to the kids. I told them to keep chasing their dreams no matter what anyone told them.
On the field, they get a guy who works extremely hard. I always try to improve myself because I know that there is no conquest in football. I have this understanding of always trying to get better at something.
They get a first team player who will do anything to help the team. When I was in college, I still helped the team whenever I was injured. I was on the scout team and helped my guys prepare even when I couldn’t play.
At the end of the day, we all want to be great and we all want to reach the Super Bowl. What steps will you take to achieve these goals? Constant improvement is necessary to be successful in this league.
Finally, they get a tough-nosed player who will do anything for his team.
He may be a little under the radar in this draft class, at the moment, but Turner-Yell has the mental makeup and the movie to be a longtime NFL player.
Regardless of the team that drafts him, he gets a truly great individual who will be a major asset on and off the pitch.
Follow Zach on Twitter @ZachHicks2.