BATON ROUGE, La. — Christopher Allen reported to Southern University Lab School’s camp on Friday morning rocking a new hairdo. His frosted high-top was replaced with a traditional fade. As he put it, it’s “a new look for a new year.”
As the nation’s No. 9-rated outside linebacker braces for that new year, he’ll do so with a new outlook on his recruitment.
Alabama has been the front-runner dating back to February, but after spending two days at LSU’s elite prospect camp in July, Allen has named the Crimson Tide and Tigers as co-leaders heading into the fall. The 4-star linebacker has gotten a better understanding of LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s 3-4 scheme, developed a relationship with linebackers coach Bradley Dale Peveto and believes his improvement this offseason may best be suited for what’s being installed nearby at Tiger Stadium.
“They’re tied,” Allen told SEC Country of where LSU and Alabama stand in his recruitment.
“I feel even better than I did about LSU. I didn’t think I could feel any better seeing as they’re my home school and they’ve always been there. But after getting to know the linebackers coach and looking at their academic stuff, when I was over there it seemed like one of the best ways to get my degree.”
Aranda has been courting Allen since the spring, detailing to him that he’d be utilized in a Kendell Beckwith-like role on early downs, then shift to the outside in passing situations. That always has intrigued Allen.
In addition to his ability to stop the run and rush the passer, Allen’s pass-coverage skills have garnered the attention of LSU’s defensive coordinator, and the praise he received during last month’s camp has resonated with the elite prospect.
“(Aranda) was saying I fit nicely in the defense and I’ve made a lot of improvement from the June camp to July,” Allen said, referring to his coverage skills. “He said I look more comfortable, like I know what I’m doing, and I look a whole lot better. It felt good knowing that my hard work is paying off.”
The 6-foot-4, 234-pound backer also spent a good portion of time during his two days on campus with Peveto for the first time. That has made a world of difference in Allen’s recruitment.
Louisiana’s No. 5-rated prospect in the Class of 2017 feels that Peveto can bring out the best in him as a 3-4 outside linebacker because of how he interacts with his players.
“I think he finds the best way to coach his players so that they perform to the best of their abilities,” Allen said. “I think he’s going to do whatever’s necessary to get the best out of them whether it’s calmly talking or yelling.”
Consider defensive line coach Ed Orgeron as an X-factor in the 4-star prospect’s recruitment. LSU’s recruiting coordinator had one simple pitch to Allen during the July camp: “Come be a Tiger. Come play for me. Come play for your hometown.”
Location won’t necessarily factor into the Southern Lab product’s decision. The relationship with the coaching staff, the fit in the defense and the success of LSU in 2016 will. Allen will be paying close attention to what happens this fall as he examines Aranda’s unit and how he would be used.
“They just need to have a really good season,” Allen said. “It’ll be a good decision whether I go to LSU or to Alabama because those are two great programs. I’m looking to see how the LSU defense is going to look this season.”
Sam Spiegelman covers LSU football recruiting for SECCountry.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play in Tiger Stadium.