NCF Nation: Darrelle Revis

A cornerback doesn't record three pick-sixes in a year and a half of college ball without taking some risks along the way.

Purdue's Ricardo Allen calls himself a risk-taker. Anyone who watches Allen calls him a playmaker.

"You can't be one of the best," Allen said, "if you don't take chances."

It was a lesson Allen learned in high school, and one that has helped him become one of the nation's best young cornerbacks.

The sophomore last Saturday intercepted a MarQueis Gray pass and raced 37 yards to the end zone, as Purdue went on to crush Minnesota. Allen recorded his third interception return for a touchdown in 17 games with the Boilers, tying him with former All-American defensive back Rod Woodson and linebacker Mike Rose for the team record. He had interception returns of 94 yards against Michigan and 35 yards against Michigan State last year.

[+] EnlargeRicardo Allen
Zuma Press/Icon SMIRicardo Allen raced 37 yards to the end zone following an interception last week against Minnesota.
Allen, who led the Big Ten in interception return yards (129) as a true freshman in 2010, has five interceptions in his career.

"He came on the scene last year as a true freshman and really was a dominant player at times," Purdue coach Danny Hope said. "One thing about Ricardo that makes him such a special player is he's very, very competitive and he's never satisfied.

"He's certainly not afraid to go and make a play."

Allen wasn't always so fearless. Early in his high school career, he lacked confidence and "used to be more conservative."

Then he started studying some of football's best cornerbacks, players like Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie who, like Allen, embraced being in man-to-man coverage.

"My senior year of high school, I used to watch a lot of film and I'd see the best; they always take chances," Allen recalled. "I figured out, ‘What's the worst that can happen?' Even the best get beat."

Like every defensive back, Allen has been humbled. He spent much of a Week 5 game against Notre Dame matched up against Fighting Irish star receiver Michael Floyd, who torched Purdue for 12 receptions, 137 yards and a touchdown in a 38-10 victory.

Allen called Floyd the best receiver he's faced so far in college and thinks the experience will prepare him for other No. 1 wideouts down the road.

Even the best get beat.

"I'm pretty aggressive," he said. "I'm not scared to give up a catch here and there to try and go for an interception every now and then."

Allen can usually sense an interception opportunity early in a particular play.

"If I'm running the route as well as the receiver, I’ll probably go for [the interception]," he said. "But if he gets out of his break before me, most of the time I’ll probably just go for a bat-down.”

Allen's style drew him to Purdue's coaches when they began recruiting him out of Mainland High School in Daytona Beach, Fla. Only 5-foot-9 and 176 pounds, Allen isn't an imposing corner but boasts top-end speed and doesn't shy away from big receivers.

"He's always been a guy who would run fast and break on the ball and gets excited about being a playmaker and making big plays," Hope said. "So he’s hungry. Some of it’s talent and some of it's preparation, and a whole lot of it is want-to on his part.

"He loves to play football, and he loves to be a great player."

Allen knew a bit about Woodson before he arrived at Purdue. He soon realized Woodson's legacy in West Lafayette and watched tape of the two-time Boilers All-American and 11-time Pro Bowler.

Allen has two-and-a-half years to break Woodson's pick-six record. Woodson's career interception yards record (276) also is within reach.

"That's a great accomplishment, being able to have my name with that kind of name," Allen said. "But I'm going to try and go break [the records]. Hopefully, I can."

The final four revealed

May, 12, 2010
5/12/10
12:00
PM ET
Two rounds are in the books and four teams are left in ESPN.com’s playoff to determine college football’s best NFL pipeline.

Clemson, Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Florida, Tennessee, Michigan, Arizona State and Penn State were eliminated in Round 2.

Georgia, Notre Dame, UCLA and Ohio State were pushed aside in Round 1.

Only Florida State, Pittsburgh, Miami and the University of Southern California are left.

Based on recent history, it’s a surprise the Panthers are still standing.

Next to college football’s teams of the 1980s (Miami), 1990s (FSU) and 2000s (USC), the Panthers stick out as much as Lane Kiffin sitting at a table of Hall of Fame coaches.

But here’s a brief history lesson to bring you up to speed on Pittsburgh football:

In the early 1980s, there probably wasn’t a better NFL factory than the Steel City’s university. Quarterback Dan Marino played there, along with fellow Pro Football Hall of Famers Russ Grimm and Rickey Jackson.

Who can forget Pitt’s stellar offensive linemen like Mark May, Jimbo Covert, Ruben Brown and Bill Fralic or its menacing defensive linemen such as Hugh Green, Chris Doleman and Sean Gilbert? Former NFL running backs Curtis Martin and Craig “Iron Head” Heyward played for the Panthers. More recently, Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald and cornerback Darrelle Revis starred at Pitt.

But if the survey were based on the last 10 to 15 years -- instead of the last three decades -- the Panthers wouldn’t have a seat at the front table.

FSU, Miami and USC are far and away college football’s best NFL factories during the last two decades.

The Hurricanes blessed us with alumni who won five NFL Most Valuable Player awards and made 100 Pro Bowl appearances. An alumni game at "The U.” would include a defense led by safety Ed Reed, linebacker Ray Lewis, and defensive linemen Warren Sapp and Cortez Kennedy. Try scoring against that unit.

The Miami offense would include quarterback Jim Kelly, tailbacks Edgerrin James and Clinton Portis, receiver Michael Irvin, tight end Jeremy Shockey, and tackle Bryant McKinnie.

Only USC can match that kind of star power. Four of the former Trojans drafted by NFL teams since 1979 are already in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: safety Ronnie Lott, tailback Marcus Allen, and offensive linemen Anthony Munoz and Bruce Matthews.

It’s probably only a matter of time before former Trojans Junior Seau joins his fellow USC alumni in Canton, Ohio.

Florida State, which won 10 games or more every season from 1987-2000 and won national championships in 1993 and ’99, produced NFL stars such as Deion Sanders, Derrick Brooks, Walter Jones and Warrick Dunn.

But many of FSU’s best players during the 1980s and ‘90s never found as much success in the NFL. Brad Johnson, the only former Noles quarterback to have sustained success in the NFL, didn’t even start during his senior season at FSU. Quarterbacks like Peter Tom Willis, Danny McManus, Danny Kanell and Casey Weldon had a cup of coffee in the NFL, but not much more.

What was the biggest surprise in the first round? No. 12 seed Ohio State over No. 5 seed Tennessee.

Ohio State’s lineup of Orlando Pace, Cris Carter, Chris Spielman, Eddie George and Robert Smith is as good as anybody’s, but Tennessee’s roster of NFL talent is arguably just as solid.

Besides, who doesn’t know the Buckeyes are going to lose to an SEC team every time?

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