Allen eager to take next step

After big season with the Gamecocks, spur dreams of NFL future

Special to The StateApril 6, 2012 

Former South Carolina player Antonio Allen worked out at USC Pro Day for NFL scouts, coaches, agents, etc.

TIM DOMINICK — tdominick@thestate.com

Antonio Allen has looked at the process leading up to the NFL draft as an intensive and lengthy interview process. But he also looks at it as something he has done since he was growing up in Ocala, Fla.

“It’s a lot of pressure, but at the same time this is the same thing that we do on a daily basis,” Allen said after USC’s Pro Day last week. “Getting out here and competing in front of the scouts is a dream come true. You wished for it your whole life, and its finally here. It’s breathtaking. As long as I get drafted and picked up on a team will be a blessing to me.”

Allen burst on the scene with a stellar 2011 season for the Gamecocks from his spur position. He started 12 games — he missed the Arkansas game with a neck injury — and was the only player in the SEC to rank among the league’s top 10 in tackles, forced fumbles and fumble recoveries.

He scored two touchdowns — a 25-yard fumble recovery return against East Carolina and a 25-yard interception return against Georgia — to help garner second team All-America honors from The Associated Press and Rivals.com.

But he is in limbo as he prepares for an NFL career. Allen played the Spur position, a hybrid linebacker/safety spot for the Gamecocks, that allowed him to show his ball-hawking skills. But he projects as a safety on the next level.

“I worked on a lot of safety stuff and not linebacker, which was different,” Allen said. “It’s all in their hands now. It’s coming on great. You have to backpedal and cover the deep ball, and that is one thing they wanted to see me do. I did just that, so hopefully I got their attention.”

After a disappointing showing at the NFL combine in February, Allen feels he had a better outing during South Carolina’s Pro Day last week.

The most important thing: He improved his 40-yard dash time from 4.67 to 4.55.

“That was the main thing I was focused on, so I did what I had to do,” Allen said.

The buzz about Allen is he would have trouble adjusting to covering deep passes. Allen believes otherwise. He has been training in Florida since the Gamecocks’ Capital One Bowl victory against Nebraska and has seen his progress grow.

Allen started out at linebacker for USC before settling at Spur before the 2009 season. He started 30 of the final 36 games he played in, including 23 the past two seasons. He feels making the transition to safety will be smooth.

“All the drills were different but it still went well because I’m an athlete, and I try and do my best at all times,” Allen said. “I tried to show the scouts everything they wanted to see.”

The one thing that is still unknown to Allen is where he will end up on draft day. He has heard everything from late second round to fifth or sixth round.

“Everybody is writing where they think you might go, but it’s not coming from the scouts,” Allen said. “What I hear comes in one ear and out the other. What I focus on is getting better every day.”

Even though his status is unclear, Allen is ready.

“I dreamed about being in the NFL since I was a toddler, so finally being able to have the opportunity here, and you feel like you can almost seize it, is a blessing.”

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