By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC-When Offensive Coordinator Chad Morris came to Clemson in January and first met with the team, tight end Dwayne Allen asked him, “Do you use a tight end in your offense?” Coach Morris responded to Allen, “If you trust me and believe in my offense I’ll make you the most versatile player in college football.” And he’s done just that.
Allen has grown throughout his career as a Tiger and is now considered one of the best tight ends in the nation, with 4 touchdowns in only five games this season. But the catches and touchdowns are not what Allen measures his success by.
“I don’t measure my success by catches, touchdowns or any of that,” Allen said. “I measure my success on the field by did the team win or not and how many missed assignments and minuses I had.”
With Boston College, a team that has been a thorn in Clemson’s side in the past, coming to Death Valley this Saturday, Allen is ready for the challenge of scoring an offensive touchdown against the Eagles, something the Tigers haven’t done in the past two meetings.
“They’re tough nosed guys,” Allen said. “I mark that game down because I know I have to bring my big boy pads for that game. BC is a physical team, they stick to their gaps and know their assignments and have the best inside linebacker in the country in Luke Kuechly.”
Allen has said several times that this year’s team is not the 2006 team or the 2009 team, they’re a completely different group, and they know that they’ll continue to have to prove that to the nation.
“Coach Swinney has done a great job changing the culture around here,” Allen said. “That stigma that people in the media has about Clemson football and how we have gotten off to great starts in the past and haven’t been able to have that consistency through the stretch of good and bad teams. People believe that Clemson is a team that plays down to their opponent, or up to their opponent in some cases. We need to be able to stay at our level no matter the opponent.”
For the first time in over a month, the Tigers are going head to head against a team that isn’t ranked, but Allen knows that won’t change the way he and his teammates prepare for this Saturday’s game against the 1-4 Eagles.
“We haven’t scored a touchdown against this crew in the past two years so that’s definitely our first challenge,” Allen said. “Practice yesterday was great, after coming off a big win, you’d think you’d have guys walking around and coming in late, but that wasn’t the case. The whole team seemed so motivated; they understand that the fun is in the winning and that the only thing better than 5-0 is 6-0.”
Allen believes that one of the differences on Clemson’s 2011 team, compared to last year, is not only the leadership but the love that the team has for one another.
“I promise you that one of the biggest differences this year is how much we care about one another,” Allen said. “Every player’s role on this team is important to our success and everyone’s starting to realize that. The vibe in the locker room this year is a complete 180 when compared to the vibe last year and I’m going to try and keep it that way and keep the guys on the straight and narrow, I shouldn’t have a problem with that.”
Although people are giving Allen a lot of praise, including Virginia Tech’s Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster who called Allen the best player in the ACC after Saturday’s game, Allen knows that he still has a lot of work to do in order to become the type of player he wants to be.
“I want to improve everything, I’m not a finished product,” Allen said. “I still haven’t had my best blocking game, receiving game, route running, run after the catch, I have tons of things I want to improve on this season.”
His leadership skills have also shined so far this season, according to Offensive Coordinator Chad Morris, who says that whenever Dwayne Allen talks, people listen, including him. Allen takes pride in being a good team leader and telling his story, because although many may not know this about him, his transition from high school to college football was not smooth.
“It’s important to be a leader, guys respect me because they’ve seen where I came from as the trouble maker on the team,” Allen said. “I considered myself a high maintenance player two years ago, and this year we joke with Mike Bellamy that he is the high maintenance player this season. It’s a maturation process and guys appreciate and really understand how hard I’ve worked to make this transformation into the man that I am.”
As for Mike, Allen has taken him aside and has talked to him about being high maintenance and what a detriment it can be to a team.
“I put a little bug in Mike’s ear and he’s getting much better, he’s starting to see his worth to the team.” Allen said. “It’s hard when you’re a young guy and don’t see your worth to the team, think that you don’t matter much and that’s how I was. I was redshirted as a freshman and then when I was able to play I was just thrown in there whenever Michael Palmer got tired. But Mike took one to the house Saturday night and really sealed the deal for us, that’s going to boost his confidence. Yesterday in practice it was amazing, usually we have to help him get lined up but he was on point, kid knew his stuff.”
As for Allen’s touchdown against Virginia Tech Saturday, he calls it all improvisation.
“That was the craziest plays of the year for me,” Allen said. “We expected the fake screen to be wide open, and the defensive back had thought that I was running a different route and got over the top of me. After I faked the screen and saw he was over the top of me, I thought he got me. Since he was so far outside, I went inside really not expecting the ball, and I just looked up and saw it falling, and I just ran under it and scored. Before I even looked back and ran to the inside, Tajh had already released the ball and threw it inside; it was like he was reading my mind.”