Stuart McNair

Alabama’s Jonathan Allen’s play on defense has him mentioned for Heisman

Alabama players laud Superman play of Tide defensive end Jonathan Allen

We think we know about Alabama offensive guard Ross Pierschbacher’s Halloween costume. He claimed he dressed as former teammate and All-America center Ryan Kelly, including wearing an Alabama jersey with Kelly’s No. 70.

We definitely know what Crimson Tide defensive end Jonathan Allen did not wear. Although super heroes are still seen on the Trick or Treat trail, and even though Allen has earned the Superman moniker from teammates, fans, and the media, the senior All-America candidate did not wear a cape.

In all likelihood, no Alabama players were into fun and games this Halloween, because it was Monday before a very important football game, the Crimson Tide headed to LSU for a 7 p.m. battle that will be televised by CBS.

Bama was off last week, but people were still talking about Allen’s performance in the Tide’s last outing, a 33-14 win over Texas A&M. For one thing, Allen scooped up a fumble and went 30 yards for a touchdown, his second TD of the season. But more amazing to many, including his teammates, was his quarterback sack in which he discarded the lineman assigned to block him, and then “flew” over a running back poised as the second line of quarterback protection.

That started the Superman talk.

Alabama tight end O.J. Howard was asked if he had teased Allen about the Superman business. “I haven’t,” Howard said. “Maybe the D-line guys have, but I’m telling him about the play, asking ‘What are you doing to be that athletic, so big.’ It was pretty cool to see him do that. He doesn’t want to talk about it. He’s a humble guy. He knows he’s doing a great job, and we tell him, but he’s a humble guy, and that’s good from him.

“You can't say enough about him. He's just a hard-working guy, and all of it's paying off, you can see."

Allen, 6-3, 291, is having an outstanding season, highlighted by the scoop and score for 30 yards against A&M and an earlier 75-yard TD on a fumble runback against Ole Miss. He’s been in on 35 tackles as Alabama has gotten out to an 8-0 record and first place national ranking, and has six sacks for 53 yards in losses. He has broken up two passes, has 10 quarterback pressures, and has blocked a kick.

It was inevitable that he would be questioned about the “Superman play,” and just as predictable that he wouldn’t want to.

“I heard a little bit about it,” Allen said. “I try not to focus on it. I’m just trying to go out there and get better honestly, and try not to worry about what we’ve done in the past.”

Was it a reflex play?

“Honestly, anything that happens on the field is all a reaction,” he said. “You don’t have time to really think about it too much because of the speed of the game. So it was definitely just a reaction.”

Alabama Coach Nick Saban said, “Last year, because we had a lot of depth, Jonathan didn't have to play all the circumstances in the games. We sort of saved him a little bit for the pass rush situations. He played some and alternated in there and did a really good job. But this year he's having to play in all phases of the game and has done really well, whether we're playing against a running team or whether he's been called upon to pass rush or whatever it's been. I would say that we had confidence that he could do all those things a year ago. He didn't have to do them as often. But he's accepted the role of what he's had to do on this year's team. He's done extremely well both run and pass.”

Allen is excited about this week’s game. “We always love playing LSU, especially at LSU,” he said. “It’s one of the things you’ll never forget. The hostile environment is just great. As a defense, you love being in that situation.”

Allen also knows the challenge, particularly the challenge of one of college football’s great all-time running backs in LSU’s Leonard Fournette. Last year Fournette was stymied by the Bama defense, held to 31 yards on 19 carries. Allen said those were different teams, but the key for Alabama is the same as it will be this year.

“Honestly, just dominating the line of scrimmage,” he said “If you can dominate the line of scrimmage, you can stop almost every back. So as a defense we always plan on dominating and controlling the line of scrimmage.”

Although Alabama’s defensive line may not have the heft and depth it had last year, Allen said, “We don’t feel like it will be an issue at all. All of our defensive linemen at Alabama know how to strike and play two gaps. That’s just the technique that we’re going to play by.”

“He’s going to come with it now, but so are we,” Allen said. “We expect everybody we play to come out that way, so that’s not going to be a surprise to us. I’d hope he’d come out that way and I’m expecting it. And I’m going to be ready for it.”

Of course Allen knows his name has been mentioned with the Heisman Trophy, given theoretically to the nation’s best player, but in truth given to the nation’s best skill player on offense.

“I don’t focus on it,” Allen said. “It’s kind of irrelevant to me. I just want to win a national championship. That’s all I care about. That’s all I ever wanted to do, to be honest. I am just focused on winning this next game.”

Alabama linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton presumably is not a Heisman Trophy voter. That didn’t prevent him from vowing, though, that Jonathan Allen “has my vote. He's a very good defensive lineman. He can do so much. Great pass rusher, great against the run. I would say he has my vote. Very good leader, also.”

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