Michigan State Spartan LB Denicos Allen Working Hard To Build Off Of His 2011 Success

Hondo S. Carpenter

The Spartan defense had so much praise and accolades in 2011. They were feared. They were intimidating and they were dog gone good. One of the biggest reasons was the play of OLB Denicos Allen. His Water Boy type sack of the Ohio State QB became an instant class and ICONIC play. 

With 11 sacks last year and enough Sportscenter highlights to make the Kobe Bryant jealous he isn’t content. His coaches aren’t content and they both want more from the talented young man.

It starts with his pass coverage skills. Mike Tressel is his position coach and he talked about Denicos and his game. “The fact that he recognized that this is an area of growth for him, that I need to be better in coverage. He will put his mind to it and get better. I think year one as a starter he just had an aggressive; I'm going to go get `em mentality. Which is what we want, that's step one, you've got to be aggressive. And then once you get to that point there is some other things you can focus one and coverage is one for him. He also saw Greg Jones who was great against the run, great at blitzing and not as good against the pass. Greg has talked to Denicos and said, `Hey if you want to continue playing after Michigan State you better learn this coverage stuff, and learn it well. Don't just go through the motions.' He will focus on that, and be better."

His position coach may look at him trying to mold him into an NFL wrecking machine, which is his job. The man that stands next to him on the field though, finds it tough to be critical of his fellow linebacker. 

Max Bullough said of Allen, "First of all, he's an extremely emotional player. Before the game, him and I are always getting very excited and getting going. And not only that he's a very explosive player, he might not be the biggest player out there, but he's a lot faster than me, I can tell you that much. Given those abilities that he has, he has the ability to take over a game at any time. And with the experience he had last year and I gained it with him, it's just going to make him a better player. The sky is the limit for a guy like him."

It’s a great thing when your position coach and the guys who play next to you have high praise. It is another when your head coach who is not given to hyperbole says it. Dantonio not only loves the way Allen plays, but he also respects him as a young man.

Dantonio said of Allen, Denicos came here as a safety. Player of the Year in Southwest Ohio, which has about 300 high schools. But he came and he redshirted the first year, and then he was a guy that got on the field some as a redshirt freshman some. And then he just sort of took off. Blocked a punt in the Purdue game in 2010, and then this last year he was a starter for us.

But he's the same guy I saw on high school film. Plays 100 miles an hour. Very physical. Can run well. 4.5 40, benches 400 and some pounds. Can catch the ball. He was a kick returner in high school as well.

So he brings that to the table. As far as his personal maturity as a person, you know, as they stay here they grow as people. So he's still a relatively young player, a redshirt junior. But so now his leadership will start to take effect as a young player and we'll look for that as we move forward.”

Before the Outback Bowl last year Denicos was not impressed with the accolades that had garnered him national attention. When I told him about doing an interview on a Georgia radio station and their reference to his “Water Boy” skills he told me, “I just want to win football games. I love this game. I don’t know how to not play with all I got. I don’t worry about the names, or what people say. I want to respect the game and play my best and give my best every play and I will do anything for a tackle.”

It is that can do attitude that has solidified him as a starter and that, “Anything for a tackle” approach that has set him aside as elite. The accolades and the wins are counted at the end of the season. For now the soft spoken and hard hitting Allen just wants to play.

On the field Allen is a freak of nature. Blessed with a skill set rarely seen. Off of it he is a humble and quiet young man. He is kind and gentle. In 2012 QBs will need radar systems to know where he is and from what angle he is coming. No doubt they will be wishing they had met him off the field because the Denicos on it is neither gentle or kind.

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