Sergio Allen is finally starting to settle in at linebacker heading into his second year at Clemson.
Looking back on his true freshman season in 2020, Allen admits that after arriving to campus as an early enrollee in January, he struggled from a mental standpoint and did not have a good idea of what he was supposed to do on defense.
However, that was no longer the case for Allen this spring, as the former four-star prospect from Georgia believes he made strides in his understanding of multiple linebacker positions.
“The main thing was just gaining more knowledge,” Allen said. “I felt more comfortable, especially from last year. Being a midyear, just getting thrown in, I was lost. And throughout the season, I was still a little confused. But this spring, definitely (gained) knowledge.”
Now a rising sophomore, with a full year in defensive coordinator Brent Venables’ complex system under his belt, Allen feels he has a firm grasp of both the middle and weakside linebacker spots.
“I learned how to play MIKE, so I know how to play MIKE and WILL,” he said. “I know WILL down pat. MIKE I’m still learning, but I’ve got most of it down pat. So, just a little more comfortable.”
Allen looked comfortable on the field in Clemson’s Orange & White spring game last Saturday, when the 6-foot-1, 225-pounder tallied five tackles and notched an interception off a deflected pass from Hunter Helms while playing MIKE early in the third quarter for the White team, which beat the Orange, 14-13.
“I didn’t know where the ball was,” Allen said of his pick. “I just saw the shadow on the ground, and I just put my hands up and I was just praying that I got it. It just fell in my hands.”
Ranked as a top-150 national prospect in the 2020 class by ESPN, Allen was a High School Butkus Award semifinalist who helped his Peach County (Fort Valley, Ga.) team post a 48-9 record in his four years as a starter. He completed his 51-game high school career with 357 total tackles to rank in the top five in school history in career tackles, while posting 45 career tackles for loss, including 15 sacks, and 48 quarterback hurries.
During his freshman season at Clemson, Allen was credited with three tackles in 18 defensive snaps over five games. He made his collegiate debut at Wake Forest before contributing two tackles vs. The Citadel and adding a tackle at Georgia Tech.
“He’s very athletic — played tailback, tight end, a little wildcat quarterback in addition to being a terrific linebacker — and just brings a great skillset,” Venables said of Allen after he signed. “Very natural, instinctive player. Finds the football well. Terrific athlete that stays on his feet. Hard to knock off of his feet and really is explosive and can blitz very naturally. When it comes to timing, really good blitzers aren’t necessarily well coached. There’s some coaching involved with it – your angles and bluffing and disguising – but the best ones have a natural, instinctive feel about it and the timing, and Sergio has that.”
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