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South Carolina's Allen Provides Big-Play Ability

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South Carolina's Allen Provides Big-Play Ability

INDIANAPOLIS––With the future of Nick Collins uncertain after a serious neck injury last season, the Packers could be in the market to find a starting safety in this year's NFL Draft.

Mark Barron is considered the top prospect at the position and perhaps the only one worthy of a first round draft pick, but South Carolina's Antonio Allen is right there competing to see who's No. 2.

Allen was named a second-team All-American by the Associated Press after displaying big-play ability his senior season.

"That's why they had me at that spur position," said Allen. "Just coming off the edge, attacking quarterbacks, making plays, causing fumbles, things like that. Playing man up, just on the slot receiver."

There's no doubt Allen made a lot of plays. How about this for a stat line?: 88 tackles, 9.5 for a loss, three interceptions, one returned for a touchdown, two fumble recoveries, one returned for a touchdown, four forced fumbles and a sack.

Those are linebacker numbers.

Playing the spur, however, also makes Allen difficult to evaluate. He more or less was a linebacker, frequently playing right on the line of scrimmage unlike a lot of other safeties who line up ten or more yards off the ball.

There's talent galore inside the body of Allen, but the question is whether he'll be able to play the more traditional safety role at the next level.

He got a taste of what's it's like to play in the NFL while at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. earlier this month when he played for the South squad coached by the staff of the Washington Redskins.

"It went really well," said Allen. "I can't complain about anything. Coach was getting on me a lot about keeping my feet clean."

They weren't teaching him wipe off his shoes or the finer points of hygiene. Allen explained that keeping his feet clean meant to backpedal even when the quarterback pump fakes with the football and to keep doing so until the ball is actually released.

It's small things like that he's going to have to work on to succeed as a professional.

It began in Mobile, and it continues Tuesday when the defensive backs work out at the NFL Combine in Lucas Oil Stadium. Allen wants to show coaches, scouts and front office personnel that he can be a more traditional safety.

"I can prove that through my 40," said Allen, "just showing them that I can run and just doing the drills and showing them I can open up and actually play the ball in the air instead of being so aggressive on the line of scrimmage."

Allen was part of a talented defense at South Carolina that included two other potential first round draft picks, defensive end Melvin Ingram and cornerback Stephon Gilmore.

In fact, Allen's partner in the secondary thinks the safety has the tools necessary to impress.

"He's a great player," said Gilmore. "Antonio's going to have an opportunity to go out and show scouts what he can do. I just told him to go out and work hard, and we'll see what happens."

If Allen tests well on Tuesday, particularly in the 40-yard dash, his stock may rise as NFL teams start believing in his ability.

And if Nick Collins happens to retire, Allen might be just what the Packers are looking for. Morgan Burnett would likely make a permanent move to free safety where he's best suited, allowing for an opening at strong safety, where Allen's skills fit best.

The Packers interviewed Allen at the Senior Bowl.

But it's all speculation at this point. Collins is expected to make a decision on his future sometime in March.

Until then, and until the Draft in late April, Allen will continue to prepare at Athletes' Performance, Inc. in Pensacola, Fla.

"Everybody's really dedicated to their craft," said Allen. "Everybody comes in every day with one thing on their mind, that's to get better at everything we do."

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FITZCORE1252's EVO's picture

Love this time of year. Wouldn't it be nice if Collins gets a clean bill of health... One less 'pressing' defensive need.


MarkinMadison's picture

You look at all of this potential talent floating out there and you just have to think to yourself, "o.k. let's tag and trade Flynn so we can get 3 picks in the first two rounds." Safety, OLB, DL, maybe a center. You would think TT would roll the dice to get the extra pick.

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