TE Allen helping No. 8 Clemson's offense go
Clemson tight end Dwayne Allen was happy to be wrong about the Tigers' new offense.
Allen did not think new offensive coordinator Chad Morris threw much to the tight end in the fast-paced scheme the Tigers switched to after hiring Morris last January. Morris told Allen to trust him and the offense would turn the 6-foot-4, 255-pound junior into one of the country's most versatile players.
Morris has been a man of his word.
Allen's a major reason why the Tigers are undefeated at 5-0 and ranked eighth in the country. He has shown the speed to get away from linebackers and the power to dust off smaller defensive backs as Clemson (2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) prepare to take on Boston College (1-4, 0-2) at Death Valley on Saturday.
Allen has 18 catches for 291 yards and four touchdowns this season. He had a 32-yard scoring reception right after halftime last week as Clemson took control in a 23-3 win over Virginia Tech.
''We're turning from an OK team to a good team,'' Allen said this week. But ''our standard is the best, we want to be the best team in the country. It's a process and we've got to work at it.''
No one's worked harder at change the past few years than Allen. A mouthy young player when he arrived at Clemson in 2008, Allen acknowledged he was not a focused or poised as he should've been. He expected to play a significant role on the 2009 Tigers that reached the ACC title game as Atlantic Division champs, but largely sat behind that year's tight end star, Michael Palmer.
Allen didn't know where he fit in and let that feeling linger into last season after Palmer had moved on to the NFL.
''I was a high maintenance player,'' Allen said with a laugh.
Allen realized he'd have to shed a bit of the bravado in exchange for hard work. Morris pointed out that his tight end at Tulsa last year, Charles Clay, was an NFL draft pick last April. ESPN's Todd McShay has Allen the top tight end should he decide to leave early for next spring's NFL draft.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said it's a no-brainer to make Allen a large part of the game plan, no matter what system is used. ''This guy is obviously a great weapon,'' Swinney said. ''So I wouldn't be a very smart coach if you had guy like that and not involve him. And you know, he thankfully trusted us and it's worked out great.''
Some of that attitude may have prompted Allen's concern about what Morris would bring the Tigers. But Morris says Allen's been a willing partner is helping Clemson excel at the high-speed attack, both with his route running and his leadership in the locker room.
''That guy, when he talks people listen, even me,'' Morris said.
Opponents are paying attention, too. Allen had seven catches - four that went for first downs - for 80 yards and a touchdown in Clemson's 38-24 victory over defending national champion Auburn three weeks ago. He followed that up with touchdowns in the Tigers victories the past two weeks against Florida State and the Hokies - not that his score against Virginia Tech went according to plan.
Allen's defender sniffed out a planned screen pass, but quarterback Tajh Boyd kept the play alive and finally lofted a ball - ''That was a terrible pass,'' the tight end said - as Allen split two defenders and grabbed for the 32-yard score that put the Tigers up 17-3.
Allen may have been even prouder of his 20-yard catch on a fourth-quarter drive that led to Clemson's final TD. Allen caught a swing pass from Boyd, then leaped a defender to gain the first down.
''He thought he had some really good numbers on his vertical,'' Morris said. ''What a great athletic play.''
Boston College coach Frank Spaziani thinks Allen is just one of several players on Clemson's offense that are talented on the team's high-speed offense.
''It's certainly been a problem for us,'' he said. ''It's certainly something that's a big concern.''
Allen hopes he keeps causing matchup problems for opponents the rest of the season. He's been pleased with his output so far this year, but knows he's capable of much more. ''I'm still chasing my best game,'' he said.