Ashburn Va, (September 5, 2015) – Stone Bridge graduate Jonathan Allen was recently featured in a story by Matt Zenitz of AL.com.
The father-son practice sessions took place in the living room of Jonathan Allen’s dad’s Virginia home.
Years before Allen was a standout defensive lineman for Alabama, his first scrimmage at the position was underwhelming.
Allen grew up playing linebacker and running back. After arriving at Stone Bridge High School during his freshman year, Allen took part in off-season workouts as a wide receiver and defensive back. That scrimmage leading into his sophomore season in 2010 was his first time playing defensive line outside of practice.
“When he played pee wee football, he used to make 95 percent of the tackles,” Richard Allen said of his son. “When he played junior high, he made sometimes 95 percent of the tackles. When he went to his first scrimmage playing the defensive line, he didn’t really make any tackles, one or two. That first scrimmage, I didn’t really think he stood out.”
The in-home practice came prior to the next scrimmage, 2-3 sessions that helped Allen produce two of his first standout moments at his new position.
Up to around 205 pounds from 180 during the winter, the 6-foot-3 Allen — who ran the 40-yard dash in a hand-timed 4.5 seconds — was already more athletic pound-for-pound than most players in the area. What he lacked, his father said, was any moves or technique.
So, inside the living room, Richard Allen began trying to teach his son the spin move, practice that continued throughout the week as Richard emphasized to Jonathan, “If you can use a spin, it would be very difficult for them to stop you if you do it right.”
Allen used the spin move twice in the next scrimmage. Each time, Richard said, his son got by the opposing offensive lineman and recorded a sack.
That was the unofficial beginning of Allen’s rise from a 180-pound wide receiver and safety during the previous off-season into a high school All-American defensive lineman, one of the top-ranked players in his recruiting class and one of the top defensive linemen in college football heading into his junior season at Alabama.
Allen, who did not play football as a freshman at a different Virginia school before transferring to Stone Bridge, never wanted to play defensive line.
Stone Bridge players told coaches which positions they wanted to play leading into Allen’s sophomore season.
Wanting to play middle linebacker, Allen was surprised and unhappy when his high school coach, Mickey Thompson, put him on the defensive line, frustrations he voiced to his father.
Never having been in a 3-point stance, Allen’s first experiences lining up as a defensive lineman were “awkward,” he said. To Thompson, it was “ugly.”
“Wrong hand down. Wrong foot back,” Allen said. “I had literally never been in a 3-point stance in my life. That was my first time in high school.”
That second scrimmage was a positive step. Allen further displayed potential as a rotational player in Stone Bridge’s first game, a match-up with another area powerhouse, Westfield Bulldogs.
During the game, a standout running back for Westfield broke off a long run, navigating through Stone Bridge’s defense and getting, Richard Allen estimated, around 35 yards downfield.
From behind the play, Allen chased the running back down and delivered a loud, vicious shot that knocked the straps off the player’s helmet.
“It was such a loud collision that it got everyone’s attention,” Richard Allen said of his son, who had several tackles, including multiple stops for a loss in addition to the big hit.
Upon getting home, Richard watched a web broadcast of the game. One of the announcers said at one point, “Ah, that Jonathan Allen, you’ve got to keep your eye on him. He’s special. If he keeps playing like he’s playing and keeps developing, he’ll be the best player from this part of the country.”
“That’s when we thought, ‘Well maybe he could be something special,'” Richard said. “The coach told everybody on the interview that when Jonathan’s a senior, he’ll probably break every record we have.”
Allen started the next game. From there, the sacks “continued to accumulate,” Thompson said.
Though he eventually had to adjust his strategy due to an inadvertent disclosure of information, Allen finished his sophomore season with 87 tackles, 20 sacks and eight forced fumbles before recording 102 tackles, 15 sacks and seven blocked kicks as a junior and 119 tackles, nine sacks, eight pass breakups and six blocked kicks as a senior.
“He actually gave his secret away,” Richard said. “Jonathan would always jump the snap count. He said most of the teams used a rudimentary snap count, so he could always anticipate it. So it’s funny. He said that on a broadcast one day. And ever since then, he said every team would vary it and make it harder for him.”
Ranked by Rivals as a five-star recruit and the 11th-best prospect in the 2013 recruiting class, Allen grew to 245 pounds as a junior and weighed 265 pounds as a senior.
Originally recruited by Alabama as an outside linebacker, Allen got put in a familiar position upon his arrival in Tuscaloosa in 2013.
Allen studied Alabama’s defensive playbook in advance of arriving for preseason practice, hoping to be able to contribute at outside linebacker as a freshman.
With Allen weighing in the 260s, the Tide moved him to the defensive line shortly before the start of fall camp.
Allen still played as a freshman, making 16 tackles with a half-sack and a forced fumble while appearing in 13 games before establishing himself as one of the top defensive linemen in the SEC as a sophomore last season.
Despite suffering a small tear in his rotator cuff last October that later required minor surgery, Allen played in all 14 games and was named first-team All-SEC after posting 33 tackles, 11.5 stops for a loss and 5.5 sacks.
Allen was tabbed Alabama’s Defensive Player of the Week following the Tide’s wins over West Virginia, FAU and Tennessee.
He was also selected as Alabama’s Special Teams Player of the Week after blocking an extra point during the Tide’s win over Arkansas, a play that proved to be key in a 14-13 victory.
CBS Sports ranks Allen as the third-best draft prospect among junior defensive ends.
“I really like Jonathan Allen,” said Phil Savage, a former Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns executive who is now the executive director of the Senior Bowl and a color analyst on the Crimson Tide Sports Network. “He’s got the proportioned body. He is physical enough to play against the run, yet athletic enough to give you a pass rush from outside and inside. And to me, that versatility, that ability to play really along the entire line of scrimmage just sort of sets him apart in my mind.”
Utilizing technique and moves that have become progressively more advanced since those living room practice sessions with his father, Allen is a key piece of arguably the deepest and most talented defensive line in the nation.
A preseason second-team All-SEC selection, Allen said one of his primary goals this off-season was becoming quicker off the ball, an area Tide coaches told Allen they would like to see improvement during his exit meeting following last season.
Up to 288 pounds, his father said, Allen bench-pressed 480 pounds during Alabama’s summer testing.
“I feel like I’m capable of big things this year,” Allen said. “But not even just me. I feel like our D-line, if we really come together and do what we need to, I feel like as a D-line and a defense that we can have a really breakout year.”
To view the full article including video of Jonathan at Alabama and during his days at Stone Bridge click here.
Here are a few throwback Thursday photos by Viva Loudoun’s Photographer, Steven Holland, covering Jonathan Allen throughout his high school career.