Allen seeks starring role

Of the 36 touchdowns scored over the final three weeks of the 2011 postseason, nearly 40 percent came on pass plays to tight ends.

Pass-catching tight ends no longer are a novelty – they're a necessity.

"Watching the playoffs was great," Clemson tight end Dwayne Allen said. "Seeing all the tight ends shine and get love was great."

Allen shone as brightly as any tight end in college football last season, earning the John Mackey Award given annually to the best of the bunch. Now Allen, a native of Fayetteville, N.C., finds himself among a trio of tight ends that could be selected in the first round of the fast approaching NFL Draft.

Continuing another trend, Allen is passing on his final year of college eligibility to join the pro ranks. Unlike many others, however, he made his decision before his breakout 2011 season, one in which he caught 50 passes for 598 yards and eight touchdowns.

"Leaving my teammates was the most difficult thing about my decision, but I'm a fourth-year junior," Allen said. "I've been in the program four years, and I feel like I've garnered more experience in my three years starting than most guys that are four-year players."

If it's possible, Allen got more than a year's worth of experience last season, when the Tigers added offensive coordinator Chad Morris to the coaching staff, and Morris added a multitude of responsibilities to Allen's plate.

He responded positively to them all, including a position that sounds like one the rival Georgia Bulldogs would be more likely to feature than Clemson.

"That was the sniffer position," Allen said, describing the name given to his role when he lined up beside the quarterback in the shotgun. "I lined up all over the place. I was out wide. I was in the slot. I was in the backfield.

"Coach Morris brought that different style offense in, that kind of Auburn-ish style of offense. He said he was going to make me the most versatile player in the country, and I believe he did that, as far as the tight end position."

The Tigers trusted Allen to play a pivotal role in every offensive formation, and he answered the call by helping Clemson win the ACC championship and advance to the Orange Bowl en route to earning the Mackey Award.

"It's a tremendous honor," Allen said. "I was very proud to bring it back to the ACC, with past winners being Kellen Winslow Jr. (2003) and Heath Miller (2004).

"Being named the nation's top tight end was definitely one of my goals that I wrote down before the season, and I was happy to win it."

Allen generally is a happy-go-lucky guy, something he flashed for the media at the NFL Scouting Combine when asked what aspects of the combine he planned to take part in.

"I'm doing everything," he said. "I just got done benching. I got 27 reps. Feeling good. Can you see the pumped chest? Can you see it? You see it?"

Those seeking their version of the modern tight end surely see a lot in Allen.

"I'm a complete tight end, a guy that's going to be on the field whether it's first-and-10, third-and-short or fourth-and-forever," he said. "I'm not going to come off the field, and I feel like that's an advantage to whatever offense that decides to take me."

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