“I’m way more comfortable,” Gardner said. “Last year was my first year starting, and it was rough, a lot of ups and downs, a lot of adversity. A lot of adversity I fought through, and I feel like I did a really good job of never giving up, never giving up on myself and my teammates. I feel my teammates recognized that, and my coaches recognized that, and I feel like that will help me.”
Phoenix (AZ) Brophy Prep WR Devon Allen has garnered some major recruiting buzz after stellar sophomore and junior seasons. The 6'1", 190-pound junior had 60 catches for 915 yards and six TDs in 2010 and followed that up with 44 catches for 844 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2011; his performance earned him the #110 overall slot in the Rivals250, a three-star ranking on 24/7, and a spot on the ESPNU 150 Watch List. After picking one up from Michigan a week before signing day, Allen now holds offers from the Wolverines, Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado State, Duke, Mississippi State, Oregon State, Purdue, Stanford, and Washington, and he's garnered interest from the heavy-hitters on the West Coast. I caught up with Devon last week to talk about his recruitment:
ACE: How's everything going with your recruitment and which teams are pursuing you the hardest right now?
DEVON: It's going pretty well. I've got a couple offers here and there. The schools talking to me the most right now are probably Washington, Ohio State, and a little bit of Notre Dame and Oregon.
ACE: I know you picked up an offer from Michigan recently. Who is the coach who's been in contact with you and what was your reaction to getting the offer?
DEVON: Coach Don Ferrigno. It was kind of surprising because I haven't really been in contact with Michigan, so when they just showed up I thought it was going to be just another coach coming to meet me and talking to me. I guess they had some interest and saw my highlight tape and they liked what they saw.
ACE: What are your thoughts on Michigan as a school?
DEVON: I know for sure that it's a great school. I've heard that it has a great campus, a beautiful campus. I know it's a big powerhouse football school, it's always been since a long time ago, so it would be a great place to maybe look at going, maybe attending Michigan.
ACE: Do you have any favorites early on in the process or is it too soon to say right now?
DEVON: Not really. I've only visited two schools, Stanford and ASU [ed. note: he's since visited USC for their junior day], so I kind of know what they're about right now. I'm originally from Washington, so I know the weather and the environment up at the University of Washington; those are the schools I know the most about. I'm trying to get around, maybe take some unofficial visits, go to some junior days here in the near future, just see what some of the other schools have to offer.
ACE: Do you have any of those junior day visits planned out yet?
DEVON: I think so. I should be attending the USC junior day this weekend on Sunday.
ACE: Going back to your junior year, how do you think you performed and what kind of numbers did you put up?
DEVON: I don't know exactly, I know it's a little over 800 [yards] and I know I scored 17 touchdowns, but that's about it. The season went pretty well. As a team we were young, so we have some growing to do still. We all wanted to win state, that was the main goal, so we were disappointed, but other than that I think if you ask my team we overall had a good year and we got to know each other. We'll just keep growing over this next year and we should be in contention for a state championship in Arizona.
ACE: If you had to scout yourself on the field, what would you say are your biggest strengths as a player and what are you working on to improve for your senior year and the next level?
DEVON: I'd say [my strengths are] definitely my speed and my route-running, my ability to make plays, my size—I'm a little over 6'1". I've been gaining some weight here lately because I've been working out, so I'm getting kind of on the heavier side, I'm 190 right now. Something I can improve on is definitely blocking, that's what all the coaches are looking at so I definitely take pride in that. I can always get better at route-running, learning the game and knowing what to do in certain situations—you know, a cover 2, how to beat that, if there's a press, how to beat that, learn all the receiver positions so I can play anywhere on the field.
ACE: Looking ahead in your recruitment, what do you think it's going to come down to when you make a decision, what are going to be the deciding factors for you?
DEVON: I really don't know 100% yet, but I think they'll be the environment, the program, and what they have to offer education-wise. But really it's up in the air right now, I have to get to know all the coaches, all the staff, and figure out what I want to be when I grow up, see what major I want to major in. It will be a tough process, but it should be a fun one.
ACE: In terms of a timeline, do you have any idea when you'd like to get things wrapped up?
DEVON: I think I definitely want to commit just right after football season. I'm not really into that whole hat-picking thing that all the players do, it'd be nice, but I think that's kind of disrespecting the other coaches, leaving it up to the final day to pick your school so if you don't pick their school the other team has to go and find a recruit to fill the spot. I'll probably commit maybe a month, a month or two before signing day and then I'll just sign.
ACE: Going away from football, what's one thing that you like to do away from the field that's something you think people would like to know about you?
DEVON: I run track, that's a big thing for me, I'll probably run track in college also. Also, I like to play music. I'm learning the piano right now and I'm getting pretty good at it. That's a hobby of mine. Then at track, I got second in the state at the 200 [meter dash], second in the 110 hurdles last year as a sophomore, so this year I'm hopefully going to be in contention for winning it.
ACE: What kind of music do you like playing on the piano?
DEVON: I like classical, it always sounds cool, but for my generation it's more the modern music, the music that's on the radio all the time. I'll just get some sheet music for that, look it up on the internet, and just play with it and see how it sounds and manipulate it to see if it sounds good the way you play it. It's fun to me to be able to play and people are impressed by it, so I always like to do that.
I really like this kid, though reading some of these interviews can get quite depressing, "Oh me? Well, I am just an average dude who might win 200m/110m Hurdles championship, can play piano, and can get a full ride to many world class universities. Oh, and I am articulate and humble. " I guess the best us mere mortals can do is root for guys like this-- but that's pretty easy to do.
"Pat Fitzgerald is coming on shortly. He seems like a guy who knows his way around an oatbag."
I didn't ask him about academics, but he was a great interview and the offers really speak for themselves. Stanford doesn't give those out lightly. Not a lot of multi-sport stars who decide to just start playing the piano, either.
"But really it's up in the air right now, I have to get to know all the coaches, all the staff, and figure out what I want to be when I grow up, see what major I want to major in."
"I think I definitely want to commit just right after football season. I'm not really into that whole hat-picking thing that all the players do, it'd be nice, but I think that's kind of disrespecting the other coaches, leaving it up to the final day to pick your school so if you don't pick their school the other team has to go and find a recruit to fill the spot. I'll probably commit maybe a month, a month or two before signing day and then I'll just sign."
"I'll just get some sheet music for that, look it up on the internet, and just play with it and see how it sounds and manipulate it to see if it sounds good the way you play it."
Color me impressed with the kid as a person.
For my privacy, my new username is "non-Oriental non-Andrew"
Here's a recruit who understands that you shouldn't do that hat thing nor should you screw over other schools by waiting until NSD to decide. He's got a good head on his shoulders. Good luck to him wherever he goes!
All around great kid, learning the piano at this point in his life, respects others, wants to win as a team....I'm very, very impressed. I love that he lists route-running as a strength, but still wants to be better at it and learn the details of beating particular coverages -- commitment to improving. Says a lot.