Andy Hodges

Little taught Turner about soccer-style kickers and he coached All-Americans

Ken Turner was a master at churning out big-time kickers at Arkansas and talked about that on The Morning Rush on Friday on ESPN Arkansas.

When Frank Broyles signed the highly-recruited Steve Little out of Shawnee Mission, Kansas, back in 1974 and announced he would do nothing but kick, some were surprised.

Little was recruited as a quarterback and defensive back by a lot of people. He was an all-around athlete and Arkansas kicking coach Ken Turner had never coached a soccer-style kicker.

“Little taught me all about soccer kicking,” Turner told Tye Richardson, Tommy Craft and Clay Henry (The Morning Rush) on ESPN Arkansas on Friday morning a day after the announcement he was joining the UA’s Hall of Honor. “I didn’t know anything about it.”

Turner had coached straight-ahead kicker Bill McClard to an All-American level, the first of a whole string of punters and kickers that won All-Southwest Conference honors.

Every one of them had a different personality, strength and weakness. Turner managed to get the best out of every one of them.

“Each one was different, had a different personality,” Turner said. “You gotta deal with that.”

He had good psychological instincts.

“Some kickers you could jump on, some you can’t say a cross word to,” he said. “You gotta know that fine line when you’re coaching ’em.”

But he knew how to put the pressure on them in practices.

“You never know when that kicker’s on the sideline and all of a sudden he’s got to go out there in front of 70,000 people to win or lose a game,” Turner said. “So I was tough on them in practice trying to get them where a game situation wasn’t any tougher.

“That was my theory then but they didn’t know that.”

Turner also had a rule that you didn’t just start yanking the ball up in the air.

“Don’t ever kick one unless you’re trying to make it,” he said. “A lot of times kickers would get out there and mess around at practice and if I saw ’em, I wanted them to make it every time they kicked it.

“The pressure on a kicker is tremendous. I used to tell ’em, ‘you’re the only guy in the stadium and watching on TV knows when you mess up. It’s obvious.’

“They don’t expect a kicker to miss and that’s the way I coached ’em.”

At various times, Turner coached the offensive line and tight ends in addition to kickers. He coached six first team All-Americans before leaving in 1989 for his alma mater, Henderson State.

Turner joins a Hall of Honor class that includes Darren McFadden, Corey Beck, Amanda McCurdy, Ralph Kraus and Jon Brittenum.

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, no ceremony will be delayed until the fall of 2021.

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