Juco D-end Jordan Allen could be exactly what MSU needs
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When Jordan Allen visited Michigan State last weekend, Mark Dantonio explained to him that the Spartans don’t often recruit junior college prospects.
One, there has to be a need.
Two, the player has to fit.
Allen, a rapidly-developing, 6-foot-5, 230-pound defensive end from City College of San Francisco, fills both criteria.
“He said they don’t usually recruit juco players, so the fact that he is recruiting me and they would bring me all the way from Cali, when they pretty much have their whole class completed, and the fact that they would offer me late and take a juco guy shows me a lot,” Allen said, “and how they want me.”
Allen is a pure edge rushing prospect. He has a quick take-off, long levers, and that uncommon flexibility to run the hoop, turn the corner and pressure the edge.
With closing speed, change-of-direction, and strength when engaging blockers, he has good starting-point tools in vital areas. And that’s why he emerged as a hotly-pursued prospect in the final days of the 2018 early signing period, which begins on Dec. 20.
Allen left campus indicating that Michigan State had jumped into his top two.
TCU, which Allen visited in October, appears to be MSU’s stiffest competition at this point.
Allen has already visited Colorado and Arizona State. He will visit Nebraska this weekend.
“After my Nebraska visit, I’m probably going to shut my phone down, and take that Sunday, Monday and Tuesday to just think,” Allen said.
He plans to make a decision on Dec. 19, reveal it on Dec. 20, sign, and then enroll in January.
He has the potential to contribute at Michigan State right away in 2018, and develop into a difference-maker in 2019 and ’20. Potential is the key word there. He is still developing as a player, but doing so from an promising foundation.
He will have three years of eligibility.
He’s still collecting information on, and feelings for, the schools in his top five. Arizona State and Colorado are working to strengthen their cases.
Colorado had an in-home visit with him on Tuesday. The Buffalos’ head coach and entire defensive staff showed up for the meeting.
When asked what was his biggest impression of Colorado during his visit to Boulder during the weekend of Dec. 1, Allen took a long pause and said, “I liked the coaching staff, the defensive coordinator. TCU is recruiting me hard, Michigan State is recruiting me hard but Colorado is probably recruiting me the hardest.”
And the visit to Colorado?
“It went well,” he said. “I didn’t really know much about the city of Boulder but I heard it’s one of the top college cities.”
Allen’s adjectives flowed easily when asked about his trip to Michigan State.
“Coming into the visit, they (Michigan State) were in my top five but after the visit, they moved up on my list for sure,” he said. “It was just a good experience. It definitely moved Michigan State up on my list. I could see myself playing there.”
So could the current Spartans.
“Everybody was telling me to commit, ‘Go ahead and commit,’” Allen said. “Some of the players have been texting me and DM’ing (direct messaging) me, telling me to commit.
“My host was Andrew Dowell. He kept saying, ‘We need all 11 players with the same mindset, doing the same exact thing, like a brotherhood, to have success.’ He said they really hold each other accountable and they just compete and that’s what I like about it.”
What about the Michigan State commitments who also took their official visits to East Lansing last weekend?
“I met everybody,” Allen said. “I liked everybody. I liked the whole class.
“I met a lot of the team and everybody I met was cool, real cool.
“It presents great opportunity, Michigan State,” he said. “It’s a bunch of good guys, a bunch of good people who just want to compete at the highest level.”
Allen, a native of Fairfield, Calif., was joined by his mother and father on the trip to Michigan State.
“The big thing was about going to a school that far away,” he said.
After the visit, Allen’s mother and father were more comfortable with the idea of him attending college 2,200 miles from home.
“Oh, they loved it,” Allen said.
Were they surprised by how much they liked it?
“I think my mom was a little bit,” Allen said. “Before the recruiting process she didn’t really know much about it but she was really impressed with everything - the people, the facilities, the coaches.”
Did anything surprise Allen about the trip?
“The snow wasn’t that bad,” he said. “I liked it, actually.”
Temperatures were in the low 30s and high 20s with gentle snowfall during the weekend. Allen has been snowboarding at Lake Tahoe but hasn’t encountered snow on an everyday basis like he would during the winter at Michigan State.
“A lot of people recruiting me said, ‘You don’t want to go to Michigan State. It’s too cold.’ But it’s not a problem for me at all,” he said.
Allen is such an intriguing athlete that the University of California Davis offered him a scholarship as an outside linebacker after watching him play basketball. He weighed 202 pounds at the time and had never played defense.
Then, before he ever took a snap at California Davis or City College of San Francisco, he was offered scholarships by San Jose State and the University of Hawaii.
And just one month into his first junior college season, TCU offered him. Michigan State joined with an offer one month later.
And the attention is still growing.
“Tennessee was going to take a private jet to come and see me on Monday, and I heard a lot of big schools were getting interested, but I’m happy with the five schools that I have,” Allen said. “And I need time to think and make the best decision.”
He played mainly wide receiver and tight end at Fairfield (Calif.) High School. The program had three different head coaches while he was there, and no strength program.
“UC Davis is a strong academic school, and they wanted Jordan,” said City College of San Francisco head coach Jimmy Collins.
“They said, ‘We see you as an outside linebacker. What do you think?’ I said, ‘Shoot, that’s my only offer, I’ll take it,’” Allen said.
He redshirted at UC Davis, which is part of the Division 1 Football Championship Series (formerly Division 1-AA).
“I got there and I was learning fast,” he said. “On scout team, I would pick up on different things, I would work on different pass rush moves.”
Benefitting from training table and a strength program for the first time, he added 28 pounds and blossomed to 230.
The coaching staff at UC Davis was fired after the 2016 season. And Allen reconsidered his place in the football world.
He knew he could compete at the FCS level. The best route to the major college was through the junior college circuit.
He made contact with the coaches at CCSF, a program with a good record of producing major college talent. He left UC Davis to enroll at CCSF.
“I told him this was going to happen,” Collins said. “If you asked me if I was expecting him to have these types of opportunities, I whole-heartedly was expecting it. You just don’t find guys with his skill set, size and athleticism very often. And when you do, and you play here with all the schools that come through the City College of San Francisco, I thought it was just a matter of time before he had more than 20 Division I offers.”
He had a good freshman season at CCSF. He accumulated eight TFLs and 4.5 sacks in nine games. But his steep slope of improvement and high ceiling of potential at a coveted, specialized position made Arkansas, Tennessee and others come after him hard.
"He is long and athletic," Collins said. "He’s 6-foot-5 and extremely, extremely athletic. He stands out.
“It was just a matter of him being promoted to schools who didn’t know who he was when he was in high school. That’s what our program does.
“He is an athlete who did everything for his high school team, so it was a matter of time for him to settle down and find one position and really become a skilled type of edge player, a defensive end/outside linebacker, whatever you want to call him as opposed to a jack of all trades, which is what he was in high school.
“The sky is the limit for what he’ll be able to do once he is able to get on campus at a four-year school.”
During the summer, prior to beginning practice at CCSF, Allen attended a junior college exposure camp at San Jose State.
The tall, toned Allen moved and ran as well as he looked. He clocked in a 4.58 in the 40-yard dash.
“Right after I ran my 40 time, basically the whole defensive staff from San Jose State came up to me and offered me right after camp,” he said. “I had a really good camp. And Colorado was also at that camp and that’s where they initially saw me. And a couple of days after I got the San Jose offer, I got a Hawaii offer.
“So going into the season, I had two Mountain West offers before I even played one game. So that was big in my recruiting process.”
After three games at CCSF, he made a highlight tape of himself and posted it on Hudl. TCU coaches saw it, offered him a scholarship and flew him to Fort Worth for an official visit, the weekend of Oct. 7.
“It was also a great experience,” Allen said of his visit to TCU. “Some things that my mom liked about TCU is the small classrooms. It’s more specialized. Michigan State has about 50,000 students and TCU has about 8,600. So that was a big thing.
“Also, TCU is very competitive. They compete for conference championships most years. That’s a plus. They run a four-down like Michigan State. It’s a little different.
“The coaching staff is good people.”
And the Michigan State academic tour?
“It was very good,” he said. “They have an 86 percent graduate rate for their teams over the years. A hundred and ninety something seniors have graduated under Coach Dantonio over the past 11 years. I met Mandy (Chandler) the academic advisor and she’s awesome.”
HOW MSU GOT INVOLVED
“About a month ago, Butler Benton was the one who saw my Twitter film and he immediately DM’ed me and I told him my story,” Allen said.
Benton is Michigan State’s director of on-campus recruiting.
“He watched it with (Michigan State Executive Director of Player Personnel & Recruiting) Sheldon White and then they sent it to the defensive ends coach, Coach Snyder, and then Coach Dantonio watched it.
“And they said that after Coach Dantonio watched three plays he said he pretty much knew that I was an offer guy. They said after Coach D watched three plays, he was like, ‘Is the rest of the tape like this?’ And everybody was like, ‘Yes.’”
What do they like about Allen?
“My explosiveness,” Allen said. “Change of direction is something I always hear from coaches, and my length and my motor. I really play hard, every play, even in practice. I just love the game. They can see my passion in the film.”
At CCSF, he had a good first game. Then he blocked two kicks in his second game. Then he had a sack and and two TFLs in an upset of No. 1-ranked American River.
“That was my breakout game,” Allen said.
He steadily improved.
“Once I got to City (College of San Francisco), I was able to do some things, work hard, working on pass rush moves,” he said. “I got a lot of good coaching from Coach (Anthony) Feliciano, Coach (Bryan) Blake, Coach Socrates (Vegara). I watched a lot of pass rushers like Von Miller and Khalil Mack videos and I tried to implement that in to my game and add my own little things.”
Michigan State joined Colorado, TCU and Arizona State as the beginning of a steady stream of interested power programs.
What intrigued him about Michigan State?
“The history,” Allen said. “I know Coach D is a great defensive coach. I know Coach Snyder’s history; he’s been a lot of places and he’s been successful, and Michigan State has great winning tradition and I want to go to a place that competes for a championship every year.”
During his visit, he interviewed Dantonio a bit.
“I asked Coach Dantonio, how have you been able to sustain success? And he said chemistry, chemistry between the staff, chemistry between the players, chemistry between the school and the fans. He said chemistry has kept them going, kept them winning.”
The Spartans revitalized team chemistry in 2017, going 9-3, earning a No. 16 ranking and gaining a bid to the San Diego Credit Union Holiday Bowl.
Michigan State ranks No. 9 in the country in total defense. The Spartans did it without a standout edge rusher. Michigan State ranked No. 7 in the Big Ten in sacks (No. 38 in the country) with 28.
The Spartans will be good at strongside defensive end, defensive tackle, linebacker and the secondary in 2018, with quality depth in most areas - other than defensive end. Add a top-fuel dragster at defensive end from the juco ranks, and the unit could go from good to great.
“Yeah, that’s what they need,” Allen said, “somebody that can be electric off the edge and I believe I can be that guy.”
He’s still a work in progress, still new to the position - but with uncommon potential. He has the frame to add more weight without losing speed, like Shilique Calhoun and Felton Davis have done.
“When I get to Michigan State … or wherever I go, I probably have another 25 or 30 pounds I can put on and gain speed, gain power,” he said. “Coach Snyder said he likes my explosiveness, change of direction, play-making ability. He told me the best man will play. Nobody is guaranteeing me a starting role. Just come in and the best man will play. So I know that when I get there, I have to make plays.”
But Nebraska has the last at-bat, beginning on Friday.
The Cornhuskers, under new head coach Scott Frost, are scrambling to collect commitments, and have enjoyed a spat of momentum in the last few days with three commitments over the weekend, to bring their total to 10.
Allen had an in-home visit with Nebraska assistant Ryan Held on Monday:
Frost is dividing time between recruiting and preparing Central Florida for the Peach Bowl. But the Huskers are a strong bet to put on an impressive show for Allen this weekend.
“I have a lot of thinking to do,” Allen said. “I will talk with my mom, and I'll talk to God, which I do every day, and whatever I feel best with is what I’m going to go with.
“I will tell whatever school I’m going to on the 19th. I want to be the one who announces it.”