"After spring ball the coaches told me they watned to take a look at me at spur," said junior defensive back Boogie Allen, who went through spring as the top contender for the starting free safety spot. "I figured that's the only place I haven't played back there, so I was fine with it.
"At first, when I came in at bandit, I learned things on the weak side more. Then I went to free and learned more about the whole defense. Now that I'm at the spur, I have learned more about the nine technique and slices and all the things on that side."
Allen, a native of Jacksonville, Fla., began his career at bandit, then saw time at cornerback during his freshman season before moving on to the free safety position. But just as he was settling into a groove there, the coaches approached him with the latest move.
"They just wanted to try me there, because they knew that I knew the free safety position and bandit. I'm kind of like the utility guy back there now," he said with a laugh. "I'm the Eric Wicks now, I guess. He was the one that knew all of our safety positions before."
If Allen can approach Wicks' level of play, WVU will certainly have another serious weapon to deploy on defense. His knowledge of all three positions will allow him to fill in gaps wherever they may appear, so another switch isn't out of the question. That will partially depend on the development of Eain Smith and Robert Sands at the free safety position - a critical spot where mistakes can result in log gains for opponents.
For now, however, Allen is putting all of his attention on the spur. "I think the coaches wanted to see how I can work down in the box, how I can take on tight ends and things like that. I feel like I am doing all right, but I'm still learning. I have learned a lot and I'm making progress, but I'm still learning my reads, when to spill and when to attack the backfield. The coaches haven't talked anything about moving me back yet, or anything like that. I just want to learn all of the positions so I can play them all if I need to."
The learning process at spur really didn't start until the beginning of fall practice, even though Allen knew about the move over the summer. Without on field coaching at the new position, Allen spent most of his time at free safety during summer seven-on-sevens.
"I wasn't really repping at the spur a lot, so even though I knew I was moving, when guys would ask me about the spur, I'd have to say 'I don't know. I can help you with the bandit and free, but I don't know about the spur yet,' Allen said with the easy smile and chuckle that defines his personality. "It's really been during the fall that I've been able to learn more and help some of the other guys."
So, with every position on the back end in his data bank, which one does Allen like best?
"I like being in the action, so I like spur and bandit a little more. You get to take on a lot of blocks at the spur, and I like being down there in the box. At free, I just feel like I'm way out there, and when it does come time to make a play, there's a lot of space. I do like them all o.k., but at spur you get down in the action."