Written by Corbett Smith
Allen spring football report: Known for offensive fireworks, Eagles forced to rely on stingy defense
How the 2011 season ended : Down by a touchdown, Allen had the ball at the nine-yard line, but couldn't score in four chances against Euless Trinity. Quarterback Alec Morris was stopped on a fourth-down scramble a yard-and-a-half away from the end zone, as Trinity beat Allen, 28-21, in the second round of the Class 5A Division I playoffs.
Key returning starters: Defensively, a strong core returns -- right up the middle. All-district defensive tackle Stone Drulman (6-2, 230), tackle Byron Bonds (6-1, 275), inside linebackers Nick Cobb (5-11, 215) and Anthony Walker (5-11, 240) and free safety -- and Allen's leading tackler -- junior-to-be safety Chad Adams (5-8, 160) are all back. On offense, though, it's a different story. Allen's offensive triumvirate of Morris, running back Jonathan Williams and wide receiver Andrew Rodriguez has graduated -- all departing for FBS programs. That's 4,400 yards of offense out the door. Two offensive linemen return, including FBS recruit Brad North, but the skill positions -- especially at wide receiver -- are large question marks.
Biggest questions facing team: Can Pierce piece things together offensively? With Allen moving into its new $60 million palatial digs, the spotlight will be firmly focused on senior Oliver Pierce. The once-JV quarterback was converted to wide receiver two seasons ago, instead of riding the bench behind the Alabama-bound Morris. He gained nearly 1,000 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns in two seasons as a slot receiver. But Pierce will be back under center -- and Allen's offense will adjust to his strengths. Allen coach Tom Westerberg suggested the changes will be noticeable, but not revolutionary. Westerberg is adept at taking advantage of a running quarterback; former Allen QB Matt Brown (now at TCU) gained 3,225 yards on the ground in his three years as a starter.
Will the move to Region II make a difference? It's no surprise that Allen was happy with its new district alignment. The new arrangement moved them out of a tough eight-team district, into a six-team configuration with the Plano schools, McKinney and McKinney Boyd. But, perhaps more significantly, Allen moved out of Region I. The second round in Region I Division I has been brutal for many teams, Allen included. In its last four years in Region I, Allen won the state title in 2008, then lost in the second round to Southlake Carroll in 2009 and Trinity (twice) in 2010 and 2011. A move to the East Texas/Houston region means avoiding possible playoff foes such as Trinity, Carroll, Arlington Martin, Cedar Hill and DeSoto until a state semifinal. With a district title, Allen can also likely avoid title favorite Skyline until the regional final.
Notables: Finding a replacement for Williams, an Arkansas signee, won't be easy. But Westerberg and his staff have a leg up on the process, since Williams missed several games with injuries in 2011. Two returning running backs -- Jeff Harris and Marcus Ward -- got the lion's share of carries with Williams out, combining for 815 yards. Harris scored five times. ... Allen won't get the run of its new stadium until the fall. Construction is still ongoing, and won't be completed until mid-July.
He said it: "You've still got to throw the ball. With Matt Brown, we've had a run-oriented offense before, but you've still got to find a way to move it passing to be successful." -- Westerberg
Spring football game info: 7 p.m., Wednesday, May 23 at Eagle Stadium
Season opener: vs. Southlake Carroll on Aug. 31
Full regular season schedule:
(Home games at the new Eagle Stadium)
Aug. 31: vs. Southlake Carroll at 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 7: at Cedar Hill at 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 14: Richardson at 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 21: Hebron at 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 28: at Coppell at 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 12: at Plano East* at 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 19: Plano West* at 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 26: at McKinney Boyd* at 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 2: at McKinney* at 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 9: Plano* at 7:30 p.m.