Asher Allen is as Georgia as they come. He was born in Atlanta on Jan. 22, 1988, grew up in Marietta and Stone Mountain, went to Atlanta's Tucker High, and chose the Georgia Bulldogs over all the schools recruiting him in order to stay close to home. So when you ask the junior Dawg where he'd love to play, it should be no surprise that the Atlanta Falcons are tops on his list.
"Oh, it would mean the world to me," Allen told Falcon Insider in a recent interview. "Growing up there, and being from Atlanta, my team was always the Falcons on Madden -- whooping people in my neighborhood with the Falcons. It would be a dream as far as location -- I live right off of (Highway) 78, and 78 runs downtown. I live very close to the Georgia Dome. I've got my family here, the crowd here from Georgia obviously, it would be a great situation.
"More than that, just looking at the coach up there, the coaching staff, seeing the team chemistry on TV, Thomas Dimitroff and Coach [Mike] Smith. There's so much promise in that organization and I would love to be a part of it. "
Wherever he goes, Allen's in a hurry. Quick to declare for the draft, quick to run the 40 at his Pro Day (he clocked in at 4.33) and quick with a smile or a catchy turn of phrase, he's got an energy and charisma that will find him the frequent subject of features if his NFL play can match it. Starting with his Tucker High days, Allen excelled at the game -- he was ranked by several analysts as one of the top cornerbacks in the country.
"Oh, it was great, man. Lost only six games in my whole career, it's just that kind of program," Allen said of his high school days. "We recently just won the State Championship in football, and we're used to winning. I think in the Atlanta area, Tucker is known for playing great football and being a great school. I still got great friends from there, my teammates I still talk to. It was just a great experience, just the kind of team we had. Atlanta already has Thomas Brown who came from our school and there's Patrick Pass, who came from our school. We have a lot of players that are in college right now. Our signing days are big events. We sign probably 8-10 a year, and so the talent that is at Tucker is just tremendous, so practices were extremely fun and I think my whole experience there was really, really enjoyable."
ATHENS, GA - OCTOBER 11: Darryl Gamble #50 and Rennie Curran #35 celebrate with Asher Allen #2 of the Georgia Bulldogs after Allen's defensive stop against the Tennessee Volunteers during the game at Sanford Stadium on October 11, 2008 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Allen had over 50 offers from schools, but Georgia was the easy choice. "A lot of teams came at me early during the whole recruitment process. At the time, my brother was working for Delta Airlines, so I would take advantage of the flights. I was going out seeing schools and really getting a chance to see them. I didn't want to just go on the internet and just look at ‘em. I got a chance to see them.
"With Georgia, it was the coaching staff. Coach [Mark] Richt obviously is a great, all-around guy. [Defensive Coordinator and Secondary Coach Willie] Martinez is a coach that, you know, I love him to death, we're still very, very close. He was a guy that he really enjoyed football, but off the field, he just, there's a family kind of atmosphere over there. Obviously it's a great football school -- Georgia is a perennial top-10 team. It was only an hour away, so my family had a chance to come see me play with no problem. Playing in the SEC, I knew I wanted to do that. I think my last three teams were Florida, LSU and Georgia. Those were the last teams and it was neck-and-neck. I wanted to go to Florida. I wanted to go to LSU. But at the time I was going through this recruiting process with my cousin, Maurice Richardson, who's at the University of Notre Dame -- he's the starting defensive end for Notre Dame -- and we were going to LSU, we were going to Florida. I think my family, we felt that Georgia was the best and it proved out to be the best."
Allen really made his mark his sophomore year of 2007, when he had 55 tackles, two sacks, four pass break-ups and one interception in ten starts. He had seven pass break-ups in his junior season, but no interception -- a stat that Allen says can be deceiving. When asked whether he's better in the box or in coverage, he points to his versatility.
"I think I excel at both," he said. "I work on my technique. I work on my craft and I really don't like to do the same thing every play, every game. I like to switch it up. I like to have a lot of weapons. I'm a very physical corner, and I'm very fast as people know, and quick. I like to use those weapons that I have to my advantage, so I enjoy pressing. A lot of receivers I've been going against in the SEC or NFL receivers right now, or are going to be, so I like the challenge. I like getting in [the receiver's] face, I like playing ‘em. I like to just get my hands on ‘em and move my feet, because I know they're not going to get past me.
"I like to play off. I think playing off is something that is obviously harder than pressing. It's a challenge for every cornerback. I don't care who you are, you always know that playing off is a little bit, because you have to work on your technique and any false step could be a touchdown. I enjoy just for coverage reading seeing how you're playing off, it might be a Cover-2, might be a three-deep, might be in man-to-man, you could be blitzing. You never know. I just like the -- it's simpler, the unknown, when you're playing off, I enjoy that. I'm most definitely confident in myself, and in the zone and man and things like that. Playing both, all day, man. Its just whatever the play is, and really just film study and knowing yourself and knowing how to attack it."
|NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Rob Rang on Asher Allen: "An early standout despite playing against quality SEC competition, Allen has the agility, strength and instincts to rank as one of the more underrated cornerbacks in the 2009 draft. His lack of elite size and field speed has led to his being beat on occasion, but few corners in this draft have Allen's physical and mental toughness in both coverage and in run support. These characteristics have also helped him to be one of the better returners of the 2009 draft."|
I put forth the proposition that because of the talent level at Georgia, team practices may have been tougher than playing some of the opponents Georgia faced. "I was actually about to say that. Our practices were like games. Playing with Mohamed Massaquoi for three years, a guy who's 6-2, 220, quick at the line, things like that, that was real good, but also going against a quarterback like Matt Stafford, who obviously knows you as a cornerback after going 900 practices. We would go against Knowshon (Moreno), who is a tailback. And then Thomas Brown, Danny Ware, Kregg Lumpkin, you know, and then we had Stafford, who was our first quarterback. Then this past year, it was A.J. Green. Those were our practices. For a lot of people, that's game-quality talent. But that was practice."
I also asked Allen for a scouting report on Stafford, who might go with the first pick in this year's draft. "Stafford makes every throw and he makes it look effortless. I think that what he does on the field speaks for itself. Not a lot of people probably know that he's very hard working. He's an extremely hard worker, he studies film and he's a team guy. That's something you need from a quarterback, that's something that's most definitely worthy of a No. 1 pick, no question, hands-down. I think that whatever team gets him will not only get a great player, but a great person, a great leader. All the things you need from a quarterback, he has it. The sky's the limit for him and I'm excited for him and all my other Georgia boys in this draft."
Allen got a grade from the NFL Advisory Committee, but he put in his papers for the draft after his junior year anyway. "When it came back, it was around three or four (round). But going through the process, I completely understand what goes into that," he said. "They're going to put up the worst-case scenario as your grade -- it would be as if you ran a 4.8 in shorts, you know, drop every pass at the Combine, interview badly, and it's 'Juniors need to go back for education,' and things like that. I've talked to teams, and though my advisory grade is around three, I'm seen a lot higher. Whatever round I do go in -- hopefully, the top two -- it will be a blessing, and that's what I'm working for."
For Allen, the 2009 Combine "was great. I really enjoyed being around everybody -- the coaches, the interview process. I'm a film junkie, I love watching film, and I got to watch film with some coaches. Teams got to see my football I.Q. -- I think when teams talk to me, they say, 'Okay, this guy knows football.' I was like a quarterback on defense, and teams got a chance to see that. It was a great experience, seeing all the guys, some of my teammates up there, but also just competing. I went out there and did everything I wanted to do. Didn't really run the 40 I wanted -- I think it was a 4.47 and I really wanted to do that again at my Pro Day. As far as the position drills, I felt that I showed well coming out of breaks and catching the ball at its highest point, the quickness of my feet, things like that. The help we got from the NFL was great. It was run really well and the whole experience was great."
He did make one adjustment from the Combine to his Pro Day, and that allowed him to drop his 40 time from 4.48 to the aforementioned 4.33. "Where I trained at, a video camera wasn't used, and I found out that technique is everything," he remembered. "What I found out with my 40 at the Combine was that my feet were too close (to the line), and it caused a rolling start. The NFL is timing you as soon as you roll. I was rolling and then starting, so they were timing me when I hadn't even moved. After the Combine, I saw it on film, had a chance to work on that -- it's like writing a story. You wrote your interpretation, and you show it to someone else, and they see something you didn't see. So, I went back to Georgia to work up to the Pro Day, got my feet back a little bit, coming out more clean and not rolling, and having that timed. I worked on that over and over, and I ran a 4.33 at my Pro Day on the grass. I just wanted to make sure that people know that there was no padding of time from the Combine.
Allen has visited with the Carolina Panthers, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants and Cleveland Browns -- all around his Pro Day -- and he has a visit set with the Falcons "We're just waiting for the date," he told me.
And what will the team drafting Asher Allen get? "I'm a complete cornerback," he said. "There's not a situation where I can't be on the field. I can play nickel back, I can play cornerback, we had some coverages where I played safety. I can play the run extremely well and play the pass; I'm a team leader -- in those interviews, you get questions about off-the-field issues, and I've been blessed not to have done anything that was bad, not to sound like the Second Coming, but I didn't have any of those issues. These days, I think that some people give the NFL a bad name. Whatever team I'm fortunate enough to play for, they won't have to worry about me doing this or that. That's not who I am -- I'm a high-character guy.
"I'm there to play football. That's my job and that's what I'm going to do. And nothing's going to get in the way of that."
Doug Farrar is the Publisher of Falcon Insider. He also writes for Football Outsiders, the Washington Post, ESPN.com, and the Seattle Times. E-mail Doug here.