Alabama star Allen leads potent defense ready to hound Florida


The Alabama defensive linemen decided to take his chances and not cash it in. College football teams have spent the past three months paying the price.

The NFL draft Advisory Board informed Allen last winter he was a borderline first-round pick. Allen decided to pass up millions in guaranteed money to have surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder and prove the NFL wrong.

The Florida Gators will be the latest opponent to see Allen clearly had a point.

The Crimson Tide's unstoppable force anchors the nation's No. 1 defense and now is considered by many to be the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NFL draft.

Allen's approach to raise his stock has been simple.

"As opposed to looking at what I do right, I kind of focus at what I do wrong," he said Monday.

In the process, Allen has become an every-down player and the No. 1 priority of every offense.

"He's strong. He's tough. He's disruptive," UF quarterback Austin Appleby marveled. "We're going to have to get a plan for him, as well as the rest of the guys on that defense. I don't think you can pick out one guy's that weak."

Yet Allen has become the face of a star-studded defense and the nation's top-ranked team.

Allen's "Superman" play Oct. 29 against Texas A&M highlights a season worthy of Heisman consideration. When the Aggies' running back went low to block, the 6-foot-3, 291-pound Allen vaulted over him to sack quarterback Trevor Allen.

The Crimson Tide's defensive meeting room has worn out the game film.

"When I watch the play over and over again, it's emotional," linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton said. "I'm like, 'Wow.' It's a crazy play."

Allen's big-play ability includes two trips to the end zone on fumble recoveries, including a 75-yard scamper to help snap a two-game losing streak to Ole Miss.

Allen also enters Saturday with 11.5 tackles for loss, including seven sacks, and has a team-high 13 quarterback hurries.

Putting up big numbers is nothing new for Allen.

In 2015, Allen played just around half the snaps for coach Nick Saban's national champions, but he made the most of them. Allen led the Tide with 14.5 tackles for loss, including 12 sacks, to earn All-SEC honors for the second consecutive season.

But this season, Allen has improved his run defense _ one of the NFL's knocks on a player who arrived in Tuscaloosa as a 250-pound outside linebacker out of northern Virginia.

"The guy has developed each and every year into being a better and better and better player," Saban said. "I think sometimes a lot of players lose sight of how football is a developmental game, how they improve, how they can improve their value by continuing to grow and develop as players in college.

"Jonathan Allen is a great example of that."

Allen is a textbook example the kind of players who have turned Alabama into an unstoppable force, too.

The Crimson Tide have won 24 consecutive games and are on track for Saban's fifth national title since 2009. The 65-year-old defense's mastery has been the foundation of his success.

Even so, Allen is a rare breed.

"They've got a bunch of creatures," UF coach Jim McElwain said. "Here's the other thing I think that probably helps their creatures play at a high level consistently, is they've got a creature behind him, which is competition at positions. They know if they don't, someone will.

"That's one thing for sure that they've done at a lot of spots, but in Jonathan's case, his quickness, body quickness, is something that really stands out."


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