Film review of Derrik Allen...
In reviewing the film of Derrik Allen, you can see why he goes by the nickname of “DSmooth”. Allen, if nothing else, is smooth. The FS prospect from Marietta, Georgia is a dominant athlete playing in one of the more competitive divisions in all the southeast. He is a “long” football player, meaning he has length in his reach and a stride to make up ground in coverage situations. He is what most coaches would call “a downhill runner.” Someone who is gathering speed with every step, and gaining more ground than you realize.
In the film I reviewed, he was often lined up at corner with either an inside or outside technique. This simply means he angles his body toward the inside or outside shoulder of the receiver based on the coverage called by the coaching staff. I can certainly see why his coaches positioned him this way. He could easily turn to face the receiver, push him to the sideline when playing on the inside shoulder, turn to cover him or hit the flats when playing on the outside shoulder. His outside technique was perfect for the cover 2 concept his high school ran. Allen had the quickness to anticipate the release of the running back out of the backfield, and the reach to cover the route until the safety could pick up the released wide receiver. Essentially, this means he was covering two areas at once. This is something only a rare kind of player can do and be successful.
The thing that was most impressive was his ability to implement the “Saban” philosophy in footwork. Allen wouldn't backpedal in his drops, but would turn to adjust to the route run so he could better see what was going on around him. Saban preaches this to his DB’s so they are almost always able to play the ball and have eyes in the backfield.
When playing more inside on the slot, he looked more comfortable- as far as position goes. Allen was lined up, and technique wise, he was a free safety. From this position, he often bodied up the receiver, read the route quickly, and baited the QB into an interception by not showing his read too soon. Only an elite athlete like Allen can get away with this style of play. Basically, he wanted the QB to think he was playing a deeper drop in the cover 1 or 2 (based off of whether or not the MLB dropped back), but would immediately step into the throwing lane once the passer had committed to the slot. This shows great awareness of the game, and yet again, an ability to play two zones of the field at once.
His tackling is solid, and he has great balance in moving to the ball with no wasted motion. Allen never over ran a play and always- I mean ALWAYS, had his eyes in the backfield to be aware of where the play was going.
Playing the ball in the air is another strength. Again, focusing on his ability to never lose sight of the ball, he was always in position to make a play. The main point here is he has great vision. It’s something you can't teach or coach. The athlete either has it- or doesn't, and Allen has this quality.
Nitpicking here... There are only a couple things that Allen will need to improve on once at Notre Dame. First, Allen tends to rely on his dominant ability to sometimes freelance during the game. On a couple of instances when covering a “go” route, he would linger in his coverage to again bait a throw. When covering the shorter routes this is not as big of an issue due to yardage, and other bodies around to help if he misread the play. On a deep route, when alone on that island, you can't take that risk. At the major college level, he won't have that luxury, and I'm sure it will be addressed by the Notre Dame coaching staff before he takes the field.
The only other aspect to his technique that needs to be improved, is right after the snap. Allen at times tends to ground his feet when trying to read the receiver on his release. I only saw this on film a couple of times, and mostly when he was isolated in coverage to the weakside. I think this is Allen trying to get position to better help himself make a play on the ball. This is another example of relying on elite talent to compensate for playing in the weaker of the two positions he lined up at, cornerback, rather than free safety. This kid is a free safety, plain and simple. Like I said, these are small issues that will be fixed once on campus at Notre Dame.
Notre Dame picked up a great prospect in Derrik Allen. He is a phenomenal player with instincts to take over a game. I know there has been a number of references to Allen being able to play a number of positions on defense. I believe his career at Notre Dame, will be and should be at the free safety position. He is a natural playmaker, with tremendous ball skills. As mentioned above, his vision to see the play develop and react is most impressive. At free safety, this will allow him to cover more areas of the field, thus using his athletic ability to play both the run and pass. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish hit a homerun with Derrik Allen.