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Collins Hill grad Turner setting roots as college coach

Wes Turner had some rare time off last week.

As a college football coach, the sport is the Collins Hill grad's life. He works long days and weeks, not only during the season but also the offseason at Alcorn State University.

So when the opportunity came for a fishing trip with some friends, Turner couldn't turn it down.

"It was awesome," Turner said of the trip where he caught some speckled and blue trout.

Turner is hoping for some more good fortune this fall as he enters his second year as the outside linebackers coach at Alcorn State University.

"Hopefully, we can compete for a SWAC title this year," Turner said.

Turner, 29, was a quarterback at North Gwinnett for three years until he transferred to Collins Hill his senior season. At North, is where he met his high school sweetheart Stephanie Sanchez, a former golfer for the Bulldogs. The couple have been married for four years.

Turner helped the Eagles to a 10-4 season in 2001, the best record in school history and reached the Class AAAAA state semifinals.

"We had a great year and a great team," Turner said.

Turner was a walk-on at Georgia Southern University and played for head coach Mike Sewak and defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder. As a three-year letterman, it didn't take him long to realize the end of his playing days were near.

"I tore my ACL in high school and tore my second ACL my redshirt freshman year in college," Turner said. "I realized one day it's going to be over and I didn't want it to end. That's what started me towards coaching."

After Turner graduated from Georgia Southern with a degree in general studies, he stayed in Statesboro as a graduate assistant under head coach Chris Hatcher as a defensive assistant.

"I really like being on the defensive side," Turner said.

Turner spent two years with the Eagles before taking a job with Division I Memphis in 2010-11. He was hired as an assistant at Alcorn State last year, where he's also the director of football operations and videographer. Alcorn State is a historically black university in Lorman, Miss., that plays in Division I-FCS.

"It's a pretty country town," Turner said. "I think what's good is it's not too big and not too small. It's a great balance for the kids."

Turner handles things like the day-to-day needs of the head coach, sets up visits for recruits and travel plans for road games. He also handles film duties like downloading opponents games and setting up footage from games and practices.

There's also recruiting, which brings him back to the Atlanta area and Gwinnett County every year.

"It's unbelievable how much it's changed. I remember guys like Tim Wansley, David Greene, T.J. Anderson, Davey Pollack going to Georgia, Georgia Tech or Georgia Southern," Turner said. "Now you see kids signing with Georgia to UCLA. Everyone comes to Gwinnett to recruit."

Alcorn State was 4-7 last year, but Turner sees promise in the program that was 2-8 the previous year he and and head coach Jay Hopson arrived from Memphis. The Braves defeated the defending conference champions Grambling in the season opener and defeated Alabama A&M, who was ranked No. 1 in the HBCU poll.

Alcorn State will get a major test in this year's season opener when it plays Mississippi State.

"They are going to help recruiting. Everyone wants to play an SEC school," Turner said.

Turner is still young in his coaching career, but has aspirations to be a to climb the coaching ladder.

"My next goal is to be a coordinator, but you can't really start looking at your next job," Turner said. "You have to be focused on the job at hand."