Thursday, January 31, 2013
The One Who Got Away: Keenan Allen
By Alex Scarborough
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- When Keenan Allen committed to the University of Alabama, he said he could hear the joy in coach Nick Saban's voice. He told reporters it was the happiest he'd heard the coach in all the times he had spoken with him.
"He just told me welcome to the Alabama family and that he hoped I was ready to go to work," Allen said at the time of his commitment.
The former four-star athlete's word didn't hold long, though.
Keenan Allen had a superb college career at Cal after he decommitted from Alabama.
The 33rd-ranked player in the ESPN 150 for the Class of 2010 ended up wanting more than Alabama was willing to offer. He wanted his half-brother Zach Maynard to join him in Tuscaloosa.
Saban, though, had other plans. He wasn't going to accept Maynard's transfer from Buffalo. The idea of a package deal didn't sit well with the now 61-year-old coach. He had scholarship numbers to consider, and, although Allen's talents were obvious, the idea of making room for his brother, as well, didn't work.
The week of signing day, Allen decommitted from Alabama. Cal ended up accepting Maynard's transfer and Allen's letter of intent. He would have been the third-highest-rated player in Alabama's class that year and might have pushed the Crimson Tide to No. 2 in the class rankings. He was all set to be the second receiver target on offense opposite future All-American Julio Jones.
Allen would go on to be a Walter Camp and Biletnikoff watch list member, an All-Pac-12 selection, and team most valuable player. His 61 catches in 2012 were good enough to rank him in the top 20 nationally in receptions per game. He finished his career as the school's career leader in receptions (205) and third in receiving yards (2,570).
On Dec. 5, Allen announced he would skip his senior season to enter the NFL draft. The 6-foot-3 prospect is the third wide receiver off the board in Mel Kiper Jr.'s mock draft.
Losing Allen stung Alabama in 2010 but didn't hurt its overall class. The Tide finished third in the overall class rankings, and prospects such as Dee Milliner, Adrian Hubbard and C.J. Mosley flourished.
Although UA would regret the lack of athleticism at wide receiver when Jones left early for the NFL after the 2010 season, the lull didn't last long as true freshman Amari Cooper broke out in 2012 and set Alabama freshman records for receptions, touchdowns and receiving yards.