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Banking on a versatile Buckeye

The Bucs hope Will Allen of Ohio State can shore up their secondary.

JOANNE KORTH
Published April 26, 2004

TAMPA - Bucs assistant coach Mike Tomlin studied game tapes, clicked the stopwatch and questioned Ohio State assistants trying to determine whether senior safety Will Allen would fit in with the Tampa Bay defense.

Then it was clear.

Allen not only had the ability, but the capacity.

"The guy's a junkie," Tomlin said, smiling. "You've got to be a junkie in order to survive here. He's going to fit in well. Football is very important to him. He's got that Dayton, Ohio, middle-America football ethic."

The oldest of three football-playing brothers, all of whom were coached by their father, Allen was the Bucs' first pick Sunday in the middle of fourth round, 111th overall. He will bring much-needed depth to the secondary, able to play safety and nickel back.

"Tampa Bay was one of the teams that showed a lot of interest," said Allen, a member of the Buckeyes' 2002 national championship team. "I feel like I can come to the Tampa Bay system and fit right in. Ohio State played a similar defense. I'm just ready to go."

Though Allen started only one season for the Buckeyes, as a senior at strong safety, he was an important performer throughout his career, playing behind starters Mike Doss and Donnie Nickey. Allen played special teams his first two seasons and was a nickel back as a junior, on the field during critical, three-receiver situations.

Against archrival Michigan, Allen preserved a 14-9 victory with an interception at the 2-yard line on the final play. The win propelled Ohio State to the Fiesta Bowl, where it defeated Miami to win the national championship.

"You could tell they had an emphasis on getting him on the field," Tomlin said. "He is a versatile guy, a man-coverage guy, active. He shows natural instincts and plays hard. You like guys who have experienced some success and know what it's about to compete for championships. He can call on that life experience."

Finally, as a senior, he started at safety.

"I was able to learn from some of the best in the country, to see how they operated and just to see how they cared," Allen said of Doss and Nickey, both of whom were drafted last year. "I was able to implement that in my game this year, and I think I played extremely well in my first year starting. That just says a lot about those guys ahead of me and how they pushed me and what I learned ... at Ohio State."

Growing up in Dayton, Allen's father, Keith, was the peewee football coach for sons Will, Christopher and Steven. Chris is a freshman cornerback at Ball State, Steven a sophomore in high school where Keith is the defensive line coach.

"He pushed us and encourages us in everything we do," Allen said of his father. "My family has definitely been supportive. This is just the next step of my life and I'm really excited about it."

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