The news of Kalon Gervin’s verbal commitment to the Irish was significant. After missing out on cornerbacks during the recently-completed recruiting cycle, Notre Dame needed to make inroads during this past weekend’s junior day.
Bang! A cornerback. Off to a very good start in collecting pass defenders as Gervin became verbal pledge No. 7 in the Class of 2018.
The verbal commitment from Marietta, Ga. safety Derrik Allen – the No. 1 safety in the state and Scout’s No. 129 overall prospect – is much more eye-opening. This is a top 100 prospect. Probably even a top 50.
Offers from Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia, Michigan and Ohio State speak volumes. His film says the rest.
Whereas Gervin is a technique-sound cornerback who still must add considerable strength to his frame, Allen is on a higher plain. This is a physically-mature junior who has been mentioned in some circles as a potential linebacker prospect. To be sure, at 6-foot-2, 206 pounds, he could grow into a second-level player.
But his physical maturity, combined with his football instincts, athleticism and coverage skills, would be best utilized at safety. This kid looks like the complete package.
It starts with the power he generates in his base – hips, legs and backside. Allen runs like a powerful football player. He doesn’t have a major college cornerback’s speed per se, but he has quickness in short space and a long, powerful stride to cover the width of the field from the safety position.
There is a lot of bounce and change of direction in Allen’s footwork. His reaction to a receiver’s deceptive moves displays the physical maturity of his lower body. He reacts proactively to a receiver’s out-cuts, but also displays quality recovery skills when the receiver tries to deceive with a stop-and-go route. He looks comfortable in his backpedal and equally comfortable coming out of that backpedal and converging on the football.
Allen started for Lassiter High School at cornerback as a freshman, so he’s adept at all the tricks of the trade, including showing good punch at the line of scrimmage and a hitter’s mentality coming up from the safety position. Could he play cornerback on the next level? Sure, but he’s a more complete package at safety.
Allen plays a physical game. He relishes converging on a ball carrier and has pop. While every young defensive back needs strength to be ready for the next level, his strength and physicality at this stage of his career is significantly above the norm. The need for strength is a lower priority than it normally is for a prep defensive back, and he still has his senior season ahead of him.
That physical maturity is even more impressive when you see him run with receivers. Wide receivers are neither too big nor too fast for Allen with his ability to cover a slot receiver or tackle a 6-foot-4 quarterback coming at him in the open field. Not only does he wrap a runner, he drives through him. His high school coach, Jep Irwin, has talked about Allen’s “imposing presence” on the field.
In other words, Allen is a two-way safety in that he can be a physical presence in the box, but can cover the deep ball. The combination of those two skills is rare for a prep player.
What’s the greatest concern with Allen? By far, it’s holding on to a talent of this magnitude. That far out-weighs any concern regarding his skillset translating to the next level.
And yet great credit goes to Allen and those responsible for his development. He chose Notre Dame because he knew all that the University can offer him despite opportunities from some flashier, more established top-level programs. That’s maturity.
This is a smart, well-coached football player who’s upside is sky high.
Frankly, with the acknowledgement of the skills possessed by quarterback Phil Jurkovec, defensive tackle Jayson Ademilola, and linebacker Matthew Bauer, I’d call Allen the top prospect of the eight who are verbally committed to the Irish in the Class of 2018.