Photo By J. Alan Paul Photography
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Jalen Allison believes the best cornerback in the NFL is Denver Broncos’ Chris Harris Jr., and would love to match up against Julio Jones one day.
Chris Klieman on Allison
“More than anything else, he’s a wonderful talent. He’s got great speed, he’s got great cover skills. But just putting those little things together of understanding where receivers’ alignments are, understanding what formations are, tendencies by down and distance—that’s what you see as players get older. The game slows down for them more mentally than it does physically.”
When NDSU kicked off against Youngstown State last month, a lot was on the line. The Bison were undefeated with easy victories in its first two conference games. Youngstown State was tabbed as their first real challenge of the season. The Penguins, who entered the game with two losses already attached to its name, needed a statement victory against a ranked opponent. The game lived up to the hype going to overtime before Cam Pedersen’s right foot put the Bison in the win column.
The game in Youngstown also marked the 19th game in which the four starters in the Bison secondary took the field together. Senior Tre Dempsey was joined by juniors Robbie Grimsley, Jaylaan Wimbush and Jalen Allison in the defensive backfield once again.
The defense’s experience is showing this season. Through the first seven games of the season, NDSU is ranked first nationally against the pass, allowing about 120 yards per game. Communication has been the key according to Allison.
“It’s helpful when you’re all experienced,” Allison said. “You can show looks together, you don’t have to talk as much, you just know what each other are going to do.”
So, what does that mean?
“If Robbie comes up, I might show back, then he’ll roll out, and I’ll roll down at the same time, but we don’t have to talk about it at all, it’s just natural,” explains Allison.
Disguising coverages for the quarterback has confused opposing offenses all season. NDSU has only surrendered 10.1 points per game and four passing touchdowns through the first eight games.
One of the three juniors in the secondary has emerged as a shutdown guy on the edge. Allison is in his second year as the full-time starting cornerback and third year of causing opponents headaches.
Bison fans remember Allison’s interception return for a touchdown against Montana in the 2015 playoffs. NDSU’s revenge game against the Griz is one of Allison’s personal highlights from his first three years on the field.
“He’s a wonderful talent,” head coach Chris Klieman said after the Youngstown State game. “But just putting those little things together of understanding where receivers’ alignments are, understanding what formations are, tendencies by down and distance—that’s what you see as players get older.”
The game has certainly slowed down for Allison, who already has six career interceptions in a Bison uniform.
Opponents have noticed his growth, too, hesitating to throw to his side of the field. This may change with stronger opponents on the horizon for the Bison.
Allison said he’s ready for the grind even if the defense is hobbled by injuries.
“It’s the next-man-up mentality all the time and we just worry about ourselves,” Allison said. “If teams don’t score, they don’t win.”
With Missouri Valley Football Conference receivers like Illinois State’s Christian Gibbs, South Dakota’s Shamar Jackson and South Dakota State’s Jake Wieneke left on the schedule, Allison will have a lot to handle. But his plan is to keep them on lockdown.
What’s Been the Highlight of Your Career?
JALEN ALLISON: “My redshirt freshman year (2015), when we played UNI in the playoffs. It was the second time we played them and after Greg (Menard) got a sack… I’ve never heard the Dome that loud. It was the most electric I’ve ever heard the Dome.”