RIVER RIDGE, La. — When did National High School Hall of Fame coach J.T. Curtis realize Willie Allen may be an elite football player? The eighth grade gave him a pretty obvious clue.
Allen was 6-foot-5 as an eighth grader, so yeah, Curtis felt Allen may be on his way to being a pretty successful athlete.
Fast forward to his senior year: Allen has developed into a 6-foot-7, 310-pound offensive tackle, the nation’s No. 15 prospect at the position.
Size is one thing that gives Allen an edge, his coach said, but the sneaky athleticism is what makes his special.
“He’s certainly one of the better offensive linemen to come out of here, and we’ve had a lot of linemen play in the league and in the SEC and on a lot of different levels,” Curtis said. The big word here is length. Willie’s length separates him, and you just don’t find many 6-foot-7 guys that have the ability to move their feet the way he does. That gives him a little bit of a differential than other guys that are 6-foot-3, 6-foot-4 that were very successful. His length gives him a physical edge.”
Among the successful linemen that have come through John Curtis Christian School include Melvin Hayes, who played at Mississippi State, and Jeff Cancienne, who played at LSU.
John Curtis runs a split-veer option offense, which heavily relies on a potent ground game. There’s little pass protection involved.
However, Allen dispelled many of the concerns of his pass blocking at the Under Armour All-America Game earlier this month, which to his coach, proved he can play in the SEC.
“If you don’t watch us practice, the concern initially is pass protection,” Curtis explained. “We run the ball a lot, but we work on pass protection a great deal. A lot of (those concerns) were dispelled at the Under Armour game, going against some of the best defensive tackles in the country. He showed he could handle himself in pass protection, and many commented to (assistant coaches) Jeff (Curtis) and Jerry (Godfrey) that they were pleasantly surprised with his technique. And he’s only going to continue to progress.”
Curtis is unsure whether Allen will start as a true freshman or be forced to redshirt in 2016. He remains confident in Allen’s future regardless.
LSU is losing both its starting tackles from last season, so the opportunity will be there for Allen to earn early playing time.
“He’s a young man that’s prepared to play,” Curtis said. “He’ll give his best effort as whatever he does and look forward to the summer workout program and he’ll report to fall camp ready to go. He’s no premodonna. If he has the opportunity to play early, he’ll be excited. If he doesn’t and he has the redshirt, he’ll take full advantage of that academically and athletically. LSU is getting a guy that’s the consummate team player, and that’s what coach (Les) Miles is looking for.”