And Lassiter High School defensive backs coach Ced Dickerson knows it.
The assistant coach charged with helping develop Derrik Allen into one of the nation’s top prospects has watched the Irish commitment grow from star freshman to All-American senior. To Dickerson, it’s no surprise Allen earned offers from Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia, Michigan and Ohio State. It’s also no surprise to Dickerson that Allen accepted the offer from Notre Dame.
“Derrik comes from a great family,” Dickerson said. “His dad was an executive for (General Electric), his mom is a teacher. He’s had hard work and expectations instilled in him from his parents from an early age.”
During Allen’s first game as a freshman at powerhouse Lassiter, the young defensive back proved to his position coach that he was determined to dominate.
“As far as football is concerned, I’ve been around Lassitter for nine years and I’ve only had one defensive back who’s played for me as a freshman, Niles Clark, who just finished up playing at N.C. State and Derrik (Allen) was the first one to start as a freshman.
“His first game out, he gave up a touchdown pass, came right back the next series and got an interception. I knew we had something special as he was able to battle back from that as a freshman.”
At 6-foot-2, 210-pounds, Allen has either elite size for the cornerback position or ideal size for the safety position.
But what about his mobility?
Dickerson believes that Allen has plenty of that too.
“In regard to Derrik, I’ll give you an example,” Dickerson said. “Derrik is a kid that garnered so much attention early on. As a freshman, they know that the kid has room to grow, obviously. Derrik comes into high school already 175-185-pound kid as a freshman. People are thinking, ‘how big is this kid going to be?’”
“Derrik now, is 210 pounds. But, most kids, when you see them put on that kind of weight, between their freshman and senior year, they tend to get tight in their hips, their footwork slows down, their movement skills aren’t as smooth anymore. But God has blessed Derrik. Derrik has gotten a lot bigger, he’s gotten a lot stronger and he’s able to maintain hip fluidity and maintain good footwork and has been able to stay smooth.”
Although Allen committed to the Irish early on and maintains that his pledge remains firm, an abundance of college recruiters continue to inquire.
Dickerson knows the national attention that Allen is still receiving, all too well.
“It’s been unbelievable,” Dickerson said. “This spring, for Derrik and this other kid Christian Jackson who’s committed to Michigan State who play (defensive back) for me as well, and in the last week and a half, I’ve probably talked to 65 coaches. And I’m talking about in person, not over the phone, actually have come to the school. It’s been non-stop, one after another.”
Of course, Allen is an elite talent from Georgia. He will remain a highly-recruited athlete until National Signing Day in 2018.
Dickerson addressed Allen’s level of commitment and what’s keeping him true to his pledge.
“I would say it’s really rock solid,” Dickerson said. “Barring anything transpiring that completely shakes up Notre Dame, I don’t see him going anywhere else, to be honest with you. The kid loves Notre Dame. He went unofficially up there at least two to three times and he likes what they have going on.
“Also with him, is coach (Mike) Elko, I actually built a relationship with coach Elko while he was at Wake Forest. We had another safety that signed with Wake Forest this year. The relationship is key with Derrik.”
Notre Dame offers Allen a complete package that includes a quality life after football.
“The education you get at Notre Dame is top notch. He wants to own his own business, the alumni, the name recognition, the branding. As far as what Derrik wants to do after football is important to him and he thinks Notre Dame gives him the best shot at that.”
There has been plenty of speculation and discussion surrounding Allen’s future position. Cornerback, safety, linebacker and even receiver, have all been in the equation.
Dickerson broke down Allen’s position fits as they relate to the evolving game of college football.
“First of all, I’ll say that he is not a linebacker,” Dickerson said. “Any coach that comes in trying to recruit him as a linebacker, is a ‘no-go.’ I’m just being honest. That’s a complete turn-off. As far as I’m concerned, as far as Derrik is concerned, Derrik is most definitely a defensive back.”
Allen will play in the defensive backfield at the college ranks and he could play all four positions.
“Now, in regards to playing corner or playing safety, for Derrik, it doesn’t really matter to him. It’s the right system, I think Derrik can play corner because a lot of (bigger) guys are still boundary corners now. I think Derrik can still do that in certain disciplines.
“At the same time, his potential as a safety is huge. I’m saying that because the way the game of football is going, you have these Tyler Eifert-type athletic, 6-4, 6-5 guys at receiver now. You need guys that can match up with them. Now you’ve got a guy that’s 6-foot-2, 210-pounds and still growing, dad is 6-foot-4, with cover skills and size-wise, can still matchup and can still run alleys. You’re getting a multi-dimensional player.”