Dawgs lean on Allen for tackles

ATHENS – He's generously listed at 5-foot-10; he's got a sweet smile, and he's just this year out of braces.

Don't let any of that fool you. Asher Allen will hit you.

"Asher is very physical," head coach Mark Richt said. "He will whip a block and go make a tackle more than any guy we have on the perimeter."

Allen, a sophomore cornerback, is No. 4 Georgia's second-leading tackler. He has 55 stops, two sacks, four pass break-ups and an interception. He will have plenty of chances to add to those numbers Jan. 1, when the Bulldogs (10-2) take on No. 10 Hawaii (12-0) and its run-and-shoot offense.

Traditional defenses most often use safeties for run support at the line of scrimmage, but the Bulldogs use the boundary cornerback, Allen's position, in that role as much as any member of the secondary.

"You get a lot of runs to that side, a lot of bigger receivers, tight ends," Allen said. "Obviously, you have to be able to take on bigger guys and things like that. I've always been a physical person my whole life. I try my best to work out hard, and I feel really, really comfortable for coach to put me in that situation."

Still, he knows that when opponents turn on the game tape, they think they can take advantage of that little guy on the outside.

"If I looked at the tape, I'd probably think that," he said. "I'd turn on the tape and say, ‘They have a smaller cornerback there, let's test him and see what we can do.'"

Allen, who has started 10 games this season, including the last nine at the boundary corner spot, has been misjudged since he was at Tucker High School, where he was considered one of the nation's best high school cornerbacks in 2005.

"I've been with this body my whole life, so I'm kind of used to it," he said.

It's because of Allen's toughness that he moves to the nickel back position when the Bulldogs have three cornerbacks on the field, as they will for almost every defensive play against the Warriors. The nickel back traditionally covers inside receivers and thus has to be more physical.

"He's very tough, very smart. He's athletic," Richt said. "He's just a competitor."

Allen also has brought a spark to the kickoff return game. He is fourth in the SEC with an average of 24.4 yards per return and just 10 yards shy of becoming the Bulldogs' single-season leader in kickoff return yardage.

"The No. 1 thing I like is he understands the ball security issue," Richt said, "and then he's brave, he's fast and he wants it. A lot of guys don't want that job."

Allen shared the job with Thomas Brown before taking over for good after Brown aggravated a collarbone injury in the Oct. 6 Tennessee game. He has had two returns of more than 50 yards – 53 yards against Troy and 82 yards against Kentucky – since.

"I remember when we were at Florida State, we were not very good at returning kicks and then a guy named Tamarick Vanover showed up, and we became one of the best in the nation at returning kicks. I think it has a lot to do with the return man just being brave enough to hit it up in there full speed."

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