Southern Illinois University linebacker Chase Allen wants to wrap up a spot in the NFL in much the same way he wrapped up ball carriers for the Salukis.
The 6-foot-4, 250-pound graduate of Belleville East maintains the legitimate expectation he’ll be selected this weekend at the NFL draft, which began Thursday in Philadelphia.
“I had a great team around me, and we had a defensive line that gave me a lot of opportunities to make plays,” Allen said. “It gave me a chance to challenge the ball carrier and show my skills.
“I came from an environment where we had great effort, so that’s definitely something I learned and can take away from my time there.”
NFLdraftscout.com now rates Allen (6-foot-3, 241 pounds) the 14th out of 170 draft eligible linebackers. Both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins have reportedly been in contact with him.
Still, he’s projected to be chosen in the draft’s final day Saturday. He’d be a stopgap player in the NFL who could be plugged into a few different positions.
“I had four defensive coordinators during my college career, so I had to be very versatile,” said Allen. “I feel like I can use that to my advantage in the pros and maybe play a couple of different places or fit into a couple different styles of defense.”
In other words, drafting a player with Allen’s upside in the late rounds would be low in risk but have the potential for a high reward. His versatility makes him a tempting option for any team that is looking to fill a spot right away on special teams.
He’s a big guy, and he’s exactly what the prototypical NFL middle linebacker is like. He’s physical enough to play inside the box, but he’s shown he can match anybody with his speed, as well.
Nick Hill, SIUC head football coach
“Wherever they ask me to play, I’m ready to go in and do my best at that position.”
In January, he appeared at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in Los Angeles. Allen was among the statistical leaders on defense, making a name for himself in front of coaches and scouts, despite limited playing time.
“It was a great learning experience,” he said. “It was more than just going out there and competing and learning to compete. It was instruction about the responsibilities you’re going to be dealing with when you’re on an NFL team.”
While playing his high school football at East, Allen was a Class 8A All-State linebacker and an all-area selection. He also received his team’s defensive MVP and Scholar-Athlete awards.
During his collegiate career, he led the Salukis in tackles for three straight seasons, and his 324 career stops ranks him 12th all-time in school history.
SIU head coach Nick Hill switched Allen from outside linebacker back to the middle during his sophomore season. Hill said that the move back to his natural position opened up a lot more of Allen’s arsenal.
“When he plays inside, he has the ability to make the big hit in the trenches,” Hill said. “But watching him go sideline to sideline, that’s the speed that’s really valued by scouts and general managers. His numbers will go up against anybody in the country, but his intangibles are what really set him apart.
“He’s a big guy, and he’s exactly what the prototypical NFL middle linebacker is like. He’s physical enough to play inside the box, but he’s shown he can match anybody with his speed, as well.”
I just feel like I’m a guy who will be able to come in and make an impact for a team right away. I feel like I could come in and start on special teams and make plays in a lot of different ways for any team in the league.
Allen captured the attention of scouts when he clocked in at 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash during a Pro Day at Northwestern. Only two linebackers at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis ran a faster 40.
“Scouts were saying I was going to run a projected 4.8, and I knew I could beat that,” he said. “But, I don’t think they were expecting me to be as fast as I was.
“I felt confident that my stock would go up after I ran my 40.”
Indeed, it did. Allen, once considered likely to be signed as an undrafted free agent, is more hopeful than ever that his name will be now be called.
“I just feel like I’m a guy who will be able to come in and make an impact for a team right away,” Allen said. “I feel like I could come in and start on special teams and make plays in a lot of different ways for any team in the league.
“So many people have been so supportive of me and so positive about it, between my parents, friends, and fans. It would just be great to go out and represent them and this area in the NFL.”