Allen's stepping up for UT

When freshman Antwan Stewart started ahead of him in Tennessee's first five games of 2003, Jason Allen didn't get angry; he got busy.

Allen worked hard to win the confidence of the coaches, and that strategy has paid big dividends. By Game 6, he had wrested the starting right cornerback job from Stewart, and he has tightened his grip on it ever since. He recorded a 12-tackle effort in Game 7 vs. Alabama and blocked a field goal that day. He followed up with an 11-tackle performance in Game 9 vs. Miami, causing a fumble. Although he has started just six of 11 games, Allen leads Tennessee in pass breakups with nine.

''He's made a lot of difference in us and what we're able to do,'' defensive coordinator John Chavis said this week. ''I can't say enough good things about Jason. He didn't win a starting job early in the fall but he hung in there and fought. Now he's one of our better players back there. He's done a tremendous job and earned everything he's got.''

At 6-2 and 200 pounds, Allen is unusually big and physical for a cornerback. This is a tremendous advantage in press coverage, when he is entrusted with keeping opposing wideouts from getting off the line of scrimmage on their pass routes. However, with Tennessee losing its top three safeties to graduation -- Gibril Wilson, Rashad Baker, Mark Jones -- Allen might be moved to shore up that position for 2004.

Chavis doesn't want to think about that just yet.

''We don't know yet,'' the coordinator said. ''We'll evaluate that in recruiting. And we've got a really good prospect in Corey Campbell. We'll look at it. It may happen that way (Allen moving to safety) or it may not.

''We're going to try and get our four best on the field. So, just the fact he can do that (play safety and corner) makes him a valuable guy.''


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