Allen ready to make an impact

Vikings third-round pick Asher Allen saw a trio of his college teammates go in the first 50 picks of the 2009 draft, including No. 1 pick Matthew Stafford and 12th overall selection Knowshon Moreno. While he had to wait longer than he wanted or expected, he feels he can hit the ground running with the Vikings and compete immediately for playing time.

The University of Georgia was extremely well represented in the early stages of the 2009 draft. Quarterback Matthew Stafford was the first overall selection by the Lions. Running back Knowshon Moreno was the first running back taken by the Broncos with the 12th pick in the draft, and fast-rising wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi was taken by the Browns in the middle of the second round. All in all, it was a great day for the Bulldogs.

But one player who expected to hear his name called on Day One but didn't was cornerback Asher Allen, whom the Vikings took with the 86th pick in the draft. While he was excited about coming to the Vikings, Allen admitted that he expected that he would have been taken earlier than he was.

"Any time you get drafted and go through a stage like this in your life is one of the most heart-pounding things," Allen said. "You dream of this day. I wish it could have come earlier, but I'm so glad that it came."

Allen, who was injured during the 2008 season after breaking his right wrist against LSU in October, said it was a tough decision for him whether to return to Georgia for his senior season or renounce his final year of eligibility and follow his dream of playing in the NFL. After discussions with his cousin, Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin, and fellow Hall of Famer Darrell Green, one of the game's all-time great cornerbacks who Allen met at the Capitol One Bowl and has maintained contact with, both told Allen they believed he was ready for the NFL.
While Allen said the hand injury limited his ability somewhat during the 2008 season, he believed a strong performance at the Combine and his pro day would be enough to move him into the second round. But, as the first day of the draft came to an end, Allen was still looking for a team and becoming a bit confused as to the process teams use to rate players.

"You never know what happens in those (war) rooms – how they come up with their decisions," Allen said. "I was kind of perplexed by going this low. But that's how it is and all I can do is move forward from here."

He comes into a situation in Minnesota that is in a state of flux. Antoine Winfield, who Allen said he's a big fan of and looking forward to learning the ropes of the NFL from, is currently entering the final year of his contract and the team is looking for depth. While not the biggest or fastest corner in the draft, one thing that Allen brings is strength. Like Winfield, he doesn't mind getting dirty and delivering the big hit in run support. He possesses very good upper body strength and believes his physical style will pay dividends with a team like the Vikings that runs a Cover-2 as a base defensive set. He impressed a lot of observers with his strength at the Combine and believes it will be a big asset for him at the next level.

"I put it up 22 times (bench-pressing at the Combine) and have the power clean record at Georgia for cornerbacks," Allen said. "Physicality is a big thing for me because pressing, I enjoy getting into a receiver's mouth. I like playing the run game a lot."

Allen also honed his craft during practice. When you face the country's top quarterback every day in practice, as well as skill position players like Moreno and Massaquoi, the bar gets raised pretty high – to the point that games were often less of a challenge than what he endured on the practice field on a daily basis.

"This was my practice," Allen said. "It was Stafford (throwing) and (defending against) Mohamed Massaquoi, who is with the Browns, and Knowshon Moreno. That was practice. We had that for three years. Going against those guys and as competitive as we all are, there was plenty of fights out there between the guys – it was just how competitive we are. By the time you got there, you were ready for the game and thought (the game situation) was pretty easy."

What Allen's role with the Vikings will be is likely going to be determined during the preseason this year. He will have the opportunity to compete with incumbents Benny Sapp and Marcus McCauley for the nickel corner and believes that his first-hand knowledge of the Cover-2 and press coverage the Vikings employ will play to his strengths – giving him a better chance than most rookies to see the field in 2009.

"It fits perfectly," Allen said of his skill set and the Vikings' defensive scheme. "I can press. I can press zone. There are a lot of weapons I believe I bring to the game. That defense when ran correctly is very tough to beat and hopefully I can be a part of that wherever it's at. I believe I can play anywhere (in the defensive backfield) but the nickel back is something I did when I first got to Georgia and whenever we had problems with a certain receiver, I would go to nickel. I'm very familiar with playing nickel. I think I come in with a prior knowledge of the defense and will be a quick learner."


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