There is no looking ahead on the part of Penn State safety Marcus Allen. We all know that that is strictly forbidden on any level of athletics.
At the same time, he is looking forward – forward to the Nittany Lions’ Week Two visit to Pittsburgh, as several of his family members live there.
And forward most of all to what he can make of himself this season – which, he believes, is quite a lot.
“I want to be the best safety in the Big Ten,” he said during a conference call with reporters earlier this week.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound junior acknowledged that there are many great safeties in the league, but he wants to set the bar high, wants to be the best of the best – “not even in the Big Ten, just the NCAA all around.”
“I just want to put myself where I need to be,” he said.
He is coming off a season in which he recorded 81 tackles, second-most on the team, and was named honorable-mention All-Conference. And he did that despite suffering a shoulder injury that cost him most of the Sept. 26 victory over San Diego State, and all of a victory the following week over Army.
He had a career-high 12 stops in the late-season loss to Michigan, and against Georgia in the TaxSlayer Bowl was credited with six tackles, 1.5 of those for a loss. He most notably came charging out of the secondary to level 242-pound Cameron Payne behind the line of scrimmage.
“I was 100 percent healthy,” said Allen, who also forced a fumble in that game. “There was nothing wrong with me. Everything was good. It was a great game. I had fun.”
There are obviously improvements to be made. Allen has somehow yet to record an interception in his career. But former defensive coordinator Bob Shoop always spoke highly of him, and Allen believes he and his teammates can thrive under the new boss, Brent Pry.
“We just have way more confidence and we’re playing with a chip on our shoulder,” he said. “We have something to prove this year.”
There are holes to fill, but Allen believes the reinforcements are ready to go. He called Torrence Brown, who is in the rotation at defensive end, “one of the most improved guys on our D.” He said John Reid, who replaces the departed Trevor Williams at cornerback, is “one of the best cover guys we have.”
And the defense has been tested in practice by the hypercaffeinated offense of Joe Moorhead, the new coordinator, one that will be headed by quarterback Trace McSorley. Allen talked up the all-around skills of McSorley and backup Tommy Stevens.
“And,” Allen added, “they talk stuff, so they’ve got that swag to them, which I like.”
Certainly Allen has never lacked for confidence. His godfather is Curtis Martin, once a star running back at Pitt and in the NFL, who befriended Allen’s dad, Shawn, as the two of them grew up in the Homewood section of Pittsburgh.
All along, Allen said, Martin “just gave me words of wisdom” and taught him “how to carry (himself), on and off the field.”
There has been no smack-talk on Martin’s part now, according to Allen, even with the renewal of the Pitt-Penn State rivalry looming. What there will be at some point, Allen hopes, is the introduction of PSU running back Saquon Barkley (shown above with Allen) to Martin, since Barkley grew up idolizing the older man.
The more immediate issue is tickets – for this week’s opener against Kent State, and next week in Pittsburgh.
“A lot of family members are going to be at this game,” he said, “but the Pittsburgh game’s probably going to be the whole stadium.”
He looks forward to that – looks forward, most of all, to giving them something to cheer about.