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Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Coach talk: Safety pledge Marcus Allen

By Josh Moyer

What kind of player is Penn State getting in safety Marcus Allen? And what can fans expect?

NittanyNation turned to one of the people who knows most what Allen is capable of on the field -- DaLawn Parrish, his high school coach at Upper Marlboro (Md.) Wise, who played defensive back for Wake Forest -- and asked what separates Allen as a player, how he first noticed Allen's ability and when the player especially showcased his potential.

Parrish, on what separates Allen from other players at his position: "First of all, he's long. He's tall, he can bend at the waist, and he can make tackles -- and he's still growing. He's 6-2, 190 at this point. He's fearless. He knows the game and this will be his third year starting. He's well-rounded and he's a leader. Combine all that into one young man and you've got room for tremendous growth. And, academically, you don't have to worry about him.

Marcus Allen
Marcus Allen's high school coach sees a lot of room for growth.
"He's mature, doesn't get in trouble, and he's everything you want in a college player. He's a hitter -- that's what he does. And he's a hitter that runs well. He has straight-line speed, and he's constantly working to get better. He's focused on his flexibility because tall kids always have to stay more flexible."

When he first knew Allen would be special: "Well, first off, as a ninth grader he played linebacker on our junior varsity. He was only like 5-8 and then, all of a sudden, he was 6-1 by the summer. So he was already aggressive, and he already had good hand-eye coordination. So you're there looking at him like, 'Wow. What just happened?'

"So transitioning from linebacker to safety, that was easy. All he had to do was get the confidence because he was used to -- his whole life -- being close to the line of scrimmage. So you could see it in him then; you don't have many 10th-grade kids who are 6-1 and already that physical with that hand-eye coordination. So I knew then. I already had previous safeties, one went to Maryland and one went to N.C. Central, and I knew this was the next one. It wasn't hard to see.

"His success didn't surprise me at all because once you have the measurables, all you have to do is perform. Remember this -- and it's something my father always told me and I never forgot it -- big kids have to prove they cannot play. Small kids have to prove they can play. Well, if you have a big kid who's used to being small, they can always play. Once he got his confidence and when he was a big kid who could play, all it took was one or two people to believe in him. It happens all the time in the pros, where they give the big kids excuses."

When Allen surprised him or really showcased his ability: "The first game of the season as a 10th-grader. He came off the hash and got an interception. That was the game everybody knew he could play. Once he intercepted the ball, it was a done deal. It was his first starting game as a safety on varsity.

"He didn't back down. He went and got it. I play DB, you know what I mean? My defensive coordinator played DB. We know what good DBs look like. He went and got it. Once you show that part of your game and you already tackle, what else do you need to show? All he had to do was believe in it -- and he believed in himself after that."