D-III receiver has tools to succeed

PackerReport.com periodically will profile the young players hoping to stand out during OTAs and the June minicamp. At 6-foot-4 and with an easy stride, undrafted wide receiver Jake Allen is an intriguing prospect.

Jerry Rice was a record-setting receiver at Mississippi Valley State. Jake Allen was a record-setting receiver at Mississippi College.

It's there where the similarities end.

Rice set national records with the Division I-AA Delta Devils. Allen set school records for the Division III Choctaws.

Rice entered the NFL as a first-round draft choice. Allen enters the NFL as an undrafted free agent.

Rice is perhaps the greatest player in NFL history. Allen is just one of the Green Bay Packers' 12 wide receivers, and faces a daunting climb to make the final roster.

But Allen has physical attributes that you take notice. At 6-foot-4, he's an inviting talent. He displayed soft hands during his limited opportunities at Wednesday's open practice. He has a nice, easy stride. During one drill, one quarterback threw a slant to the left while another simultaneously threw a slant to the right. While rookie seventh-round pick Brett Swain was going full tilt, Allen looked like he was jogging. Both completed the 40 or so yards at the same time.

"If we lost a game, it was because we didn't go to him enough," Choctaws coach Norman Joseph said in a phone interview last week. "They would double cover him and bracket cover him and they'd take away some of our favorite routes, but he found a way to get open."

As a sophomore at Wayne County High School in Mississippi, Allen was 5-foot-9 and watching the games with his friends. He grew 4 inches in the next year, though, and decided to give football a try. It didn't go well; he broke his collarbone. So, Allen's high school career didn't really begin until he was a senior.

He wound up enrolling at a junior college, but was injured and almost quit.

"The head coach there turned him loose for us," Joseph recalled. "It happened to be my first year, and we were in dire need for some receivers and some speed. Jake wasn't fitting what they were doing, so all of a sudden, he caught 40-some passes for us. Then he had a 1,000-yard season. Then he was MVP of our league.

"He was just a phenomenal player, and even more so, he's a great person. He takes care of his business. He's hard worker and a good student. Just first class all the way."

As a senior, Allen caught 61 passes for 1,254 yards and 12 touchdowns, and earned first-team all-American honors. Running for scouts, Allen was timed the 40-yard dash in 4.51 seconds.

The biggest question isn't whether Allen can adapt to the big jump in talent from nonscholarship Division III to highly paid professionals. It's whether his 190-pound frame can beat press coverage and absorb the punishment from running routes over the middle.

"One thing about him is he never shied away from catching the ball in the middle of the field," said Joseph, who compared Allen to former NFL starter Vincent Brisby, who he coached at Northeast Louisiana. "He's a big ole target. When you've got a 6-4 kid running down the field, you've got something special. The older he got, the more experienced he got, the better he became."

Steve Lawrence is a frequent contributor to PackerReport.com. E-mail him at steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com

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