Derrik Allen’s father played college basketball, and the former Army team captain gave his son a “DSmooth” handle on Twitter when he set up the account during his freshman year.
That now seems spot-on in regard to the junior safety at Lassiter. Allen is rated as the nation’s No. 2 cornerback and No. 21 overall prospect for 2018.
“Smooth” aptly describes Allen, who started as a freshman 5-foot-11 cornerback in Class 6A football and will play safety as a junior this fall. Allen now stands 6-foot-2, weighs about 206 pounds and has improved his speed. His frame is trending in a direction that might size him out of cornerback at the college level. Safety seems to be a logical projection given his current frame and the fact his father was a 6-foot-4 point guard.
But Allen should always benefit from blanketing receivers for two varisty seasons at corner. He’ll retain those quick feet, fluid hips and ball skills to some extent as he grows.
Lassiter’s defense was gashed in the run game his first two years, but he’s still only given up two varsity touchdowns. That includes all scrimmages.
His recruiting process is in the early stages. Allen shakes off a strong connection to any school, but he can’t soft-sell the interest he’s received from Georgia and Ohio State.
When the Urban Meyers and Kirby Smarts of college football get in touch on his birthday to wish him well, that’s considerable interest for a prospect who has yet to enter his junior season.
Allen agreed with the notion that those two programs will eventually be major players in his decision. He recently spoke on the phone with the entire Ohio State defensive staff. Allen called in and the coaches passed the phone around. He estimated he spoke to at least 15 coaches.
The 16-year-old felt the Buckeyes are pursuing him the hardest, but Georgia falls right after that. He’s yet to visit the Ohio State campus but plans at least one trip this fall. He’s already been “countless times” to Georgia.
“I feel like Georgia and Coach Smart have already made me a real priority,” Allen said.
Georgia might not have an edge with Allen, but at least there is an “in” with Lassiter defensive backs coach Cedric Dickerson, who played for Smart during his first coaching stint as a Valdosta State assistant.
“Coach Smart tells me to not mess around with my talent and keep my head down and work,” Allen said. “He tells me to stay lame. … He told me recently he liked my athleticism and my knowledge of the game and how I know where to be. He said I set myself up to make big plays that way. ”
Smart maintained a good relationship with Dickerson during his time recruiting Georgia as the defensive coordinator at Alabama.
“Kirby wants this kid to come play at Georgia bad,” Dickerson said. “Very bad.”
Dickerson has another very close relationship in the SEC. His Valdosta State ties extend to South Carolina coach Will Muschamp and he regards him as a “father figure” in his life.
Allen does not plan to enroll early and has “no clue” when he might make his decision. He’s maintaining a “B” average in honors classes and feels Computer Science could be his college major.
Dickerson already started thinking of him as a future Saturday player during the first varsity scrimmage of his freshman year. Allen was matched against a 6-foot-4 receiver with college ability. He gave up a touchdown but rebounded with an interception on the subsequent series.
“The main thing that comes to my mind about Derrik is his range,” Dickerson said. “He can cover a lot of ground.”
Dickerson said Allen reminds him of former Georgia LB Alec Ogletree, who was a high school safety.
“For me watching Alec in high school and now watching him in high school I can already say Derrik is definitely a better cover guy,” he said. “I think the best thing for him was playing corner his first two years. He developed his cover skills, his hips and all the footwork. He’s grown and this year we’re going to move him inside. He’ll show people he can fill in the box, make tackles, run sideline-to-sideline and play the ball all over the field.”
The Allen athletic bloodline extends to his younger brother. Marcus Allen, his 12-year-old sibling, has piled up the yards (almost 2,000) and touchdowns (31) as a middle school running back. His father acknowledged his youngest son is the “real athlete in the family” and that’s saying something given the background of everyone at the family dinner table.
Dickerson concurred with that. “Legit” was the nickname he tossed around regarding that young man’s future.
As for Allen, the five-star junior stands out away from the field for his selflessness. He worked a youth camp for Lassiter last month. He wasn’t assigned to be there but wanted to help.
He is also a product of the “I-Dare-U” character and talent development program that’s already been so influential in lives across the Atlanta area.
“He’s just a very caring kid,” Lassiter coach Jep Irwin said. “I’m impressed by watching how he treats people who can’t do anything for him. People with special needs at the school and our younger players. He’s just a great representative of his family and the things we try to teach the young men in our program. He’s never made a misstep and never been one to show off away from the field.”
Irwin said there is a person close to the program that has a physical disability. When he introduced that individual to the team, Allen took it upon himself to extend another welcome.
“This person is dear to us but unbeknownst to the coaches, Derrik went up to him and said ‘Hey, man if everybody gives you any trouble here let me know because we’re glad to have you with us,’ ” Irwin said. “He didn’t have to do that. This is the star and the most-recruited player on the team willing to do that on his own for somebody he didn’t know that well. This was not even a player on the team. That’s my favorite Derrik story because it tells you all you need to know about him, the way he was raised and the quality family which brought him up.”
Allen shrugged his shoulders when that story came up.
“That’s just the way people should be,” Allen said. “It was how I was raised and the way I’ll always be. Just treat people the way you would want to be treated. There’s nothing special to that.”
Jeff Sentell covers UGA football and UGA recruiting for AJC.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges. Unless otherwise indicated, player rankings and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.