A slight tweak in attire doesn’t generally merit much discussion, but LSU defensive end Jordan Allen might quibble with the notion.
Recovering from a knee injury against Washington that cost Allen his sophomore season, the West Monroe native shed his green jersey for the Tigers’ second scrimmage of spring, a less-than-innocuous development indicating a
return to bruising contact.
Not a moment too soon,
either, for a position hit hard by graduation and the departure of junior bookends Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery for the NFL draft.
Locked in an early bout with sophomore Danielle Hunter, Allen keenly grasps there’s a potential spot in need of filling opposite Jermauria Rasco, whose five tackles and three sacks this week seemed to hint he’s clenched his grip on the left side spot.
“To learn from those guys and take advantage of last season would have been key for me,” Allen said. “There’s an extra chip on my shoulder to really hold up the right side. Rasco’s solid, and he’s going to do great over there.”
A season ago, Allen’s expectations were reasonably modest considering the Tigers’ were well-stocked with edge rushers, but any slim chance at reps were nixed during a rout of the Huskies.
On a kickoff, Allen planted his leg as he used his 6-foot-6, 260-pound frame to apply leverage on a Washington blocker trying to kick him out as the return man bolted up field. With the full mass planted on his right leg, the push back caused a pop in his knee.
“I assumed it was a random pop,” Allen said. “As soon as I tried to put weight on it, my knee felt like it was being held together by rubber bands.”
Similar to running back Alfred Blue, who went down with a torn left ACL against Idaho, Allen quickly underwent surgery and faced a five-month rehabilitation window before even entering the fringes of any discussion about his landing spot on a depth chart.
The hands of the clock started moving after Allen, whom Rivals.com rated a four-star prospect and the state’s
No. 3 player in 2010, after he was wheeled out of surgery. Naturally, there was the assumption of quick and steady gains in returning strength and flexibility. Hardly. To add five pounds of weight to lift sometimes took two weeks.
“I didn’t realize how much of a time thing it was going to be,” Allen said. “It’s been like that ever since. I don’t really look every day for the change. I embrace it when it finally comes.”
Compensating for the seeming crawling pace of his recovery, Allen flipped on film cut-ups to study technique. He delved into the playbook to plumb its contents for greater knowledge of scheme. There were more questions lobbed in meetings for tricks to be applied later.
The hope: Any potential physical detriments could be offset by better knowledge as a student in LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis’ system.
“For every moment you’re not out here getting that physical work, you want to do something,” Allen said. “You just start feeling this emptiness. It’s like, ‘Where did football go?’ There was a lot of that for me.”
Entering spring, there’s relatively little on Allen’s résumé separating him from Hunter.
In his freshman campaign, Allen saw action in just four games on special teams, notched a lone tackle against Northwestern State and only played last season against Washington.
Meanwhile, Hunter, a 6-5, 235-pound product of Katy, Texas, played in 12 games and tallied nine tackles.
In essence, the right end spot is a blank slate, and LSU coach Les Miles didn’t shed much light on which man might have a tentative hold on the spot.
“I don’t know,” Miles said. “It would be premature for me to say.”
For now, Allen continues a pilgrim’s slow and steady progress. Early on, he favored his right leg slightly, but over nine practices has felt fine outside of an occasional pop. His reads at full speed are back. And on stunts and blitzes calling for him to compress the pocket, there’s been enough strength to do the job.
“The first two or three days, I was more mentally aware of it and trying to go easy on it,” Allen said. “Every day, I’ve picked up the pace a little bit more and see what more I can do on it. I’ve had one or two little scares here and there, but nothing really severe.”