Boston College has done a terrific job of churning out quality NFL prospects as of late, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
One of this year’s many draft hopefuls pouring out of Chestnut Hill is Zach Allen, a highly productive defensive line prospect who showcased his ability to play all over the defensive line throughout his time as an Eagle.
Allen recently spoke exclusively with MCM about his pass rush arsenal, the lessons he learned at Boston College and why he can’t wait for the NFL Scouting Combine.
JM: Many felt that you could have entered the draft last season. Why did you return for your senior year?
ZA: The big thing for me was that I didn’t feel ready to leave Boston College. I was honored to receive the recognition by many who felt I was ready for the NFL but I just couldn’t imagine cutting my college career short. We were very close as a team and we had high expectations. There’s a reason why so many Boston College guys get a chance to play in the all-star circuit games and go on to do well in the NFL. That was the main thing for me. I also had a torn labrum in my shoulder. I thought it would be better to repair that and play another season with a clean bill of health.
JM: Did you feel you gained something by playing that senior season?
ZA: I think I proved how versatile I am. I think in my junior year, I played over the tackle a lot. I was primarily focused on stopping the run. This year, I got to rush the passer on the outside. I played more of a 9-technique role. Being able to show that I can play both inside and outside at a high level was big for me. I think I did a pretty good job of that this year.
Zach Allen also totaled the most stops in run-defense this season among ACC edge defenders. pic.twitter.com/wC7px8nEBE— PFF College (@PFF_College) February 4, 2019
JM: I’d agree with you. Speaking of rushing from the outside, how would you describe your pass rush arsenal?
ZA: I just try to keep the offensive tackle guessing. I try to make everything look the same. When it looks the same, you’re disguising it pretty well. I can use power, that’s usually my go to. At the same time, I can use speed. I feel like I’m deceptively fast. Being able to mix in different moves and tempo, throwing that at the tackles is why I had so much success this year.
JM: How do you counter if your initial move is stopped?
ZA: I think the big thing for me is being able to dictate the tempo. If your first move doesn’t work and you see the quarterback winding up, you have to think hands up. Try and block that thing. My coaches the last couple of years have done a great job really harping on that. They’re the reason why I had 7 PBU’s this year. If the initial move doesn’t work, you have to be aware of where his body is leaning towards. If you try a speed move and the tackle was able to kick over and cut you off, you have to try to take his momentum that way and try to come back underneath or spin back. It’s about being able to read him at that point.
JM: Speaking of your coaches, you had some great coaches. Defensive coordinator Jim Reid also happened to be your defensive line coach. What’s it like to play for those guys and what did you learn under their watch?
ZA: They were fantastic for my development. Coach Reid and coach [Steve] Addazio, he recruited me and he was always great to me. He taught me a lot about being a family man and how to make football your world. He taught me how to put my all into it because you really have a short period of time to do this. He helped me mature as a person and as a professional. Coach Reid spends all day in the office. Sometimes he sleeps there. I’ll tell you a story about something he did in the summer. I’ve always wanted to watch tape on some NFL guys with him. I’m always looking to learn from the best. Coach Reid drove down from Cape Cod every day to watch film with me during the summer. This is in his time off. He didn’t have to do that. We’re talking about a 2-3 hour drive each way. He really puts in the work. He’s incredibly dedicated. I’m very thankful for both of them.
JM: That really says something about how committed he is to his players.
ZA: Exactly. He really loves his players.
JM: Do you see yourself playing in a 4-3 or 3-4 at the next level?
ZA: I honestly see myself being able to fit into any defense. I know I’ve played at 285 pounds in college. At the same time, I can lose or gain weight with ease. I’ve shown my ability to play different positions throughout the years. I think I could have success in either a 4-3 or 3-4.
The ACC featured some studs at the edge defender position, but none was better than Zach Allen. pic.twitter.com/inV0CTh6cv— PFF College (@PFF_College) February 4, 2019
JM: Who was the best offensive linemen you ever faced?
ZA: I’d have to go with Quenton Nelson. We played against Notre Dame in my junior year. I think he was in his senior year. When I play inside as a 3-technique, I like to counter inside but everyone is aware of his strength but he moves really well for his size. He’s really a complete player.
JM: He had a hell of a rookie season. Is there an NFL quarterback that you’d love to sack?
ZA: I’d have to go with Tom Brady. He’s the greatest of all time. I’d love to get some of the mobile quarterbacks as well. It’s always impressive when you’re able to get one of those quarterbacks that can scramble and run away from pressure. Lamar Jackson for example, I was able to get a few hits on him in college but I never got to sack him. Hopefully I can get one on him.
JM: The combine is just a few weeks away. Is there a drill you’re looking forward to?
ZA: I’m looking forward to everything at the combine. I feel like I’m a well-rounded guy and I can hold my own in all of the drills. I’m more athletic than people think. I know people look at me and see 285 pounds, they probably don’t think I can move too well. I’m looking forward to proving them wrong. I know I’ll do well in some of the agility drills. I’m excited to showcase that I can move at my size. The bench press is always a fun one for us big guys. I’m excited for the 40 yard dash as well. I’m just excited to go out and compete.
JM: The Titans recently hired Frank Piraino to be their new strength and conditioning coach. You’ve obviously spent a lot of time with coach Piraino over the years. What kind of coach are the Titans getting in him?
ZA: He’s awesome. The thing that makes Boston College so great is how dedicated all of the coaches are. Coach Piraino is no different. He’s as dedicated as it gets. The strength staff never get a break. When the coaches are out recruiting or spending time with their families, the strength coaches are there lifting with us and they spend the entire season with us as well. He’s a great hire for the Titans. The guys are gonna love him. He’s one of the guys. He knows when it’s time to have fun and he knows when it’s time to buckle down and work. They’re gonna love him in Tennessee.
JM: We’ve talked about Boston College a lot. As you move onto this next chapter of your life, you’ll look back on this one day. What did the opportunity to represent Boston College mean to you?
ZA: It’s been one of the greatest honors of my life. Being a New England guy, Boston College is the pinnacle of New England sports. Being able to play for the hometown team was a great honor. I wish we could have won a championship. We came pretty close. I believe when we played against Clemson that we were playing for a chance to play in the ACC title game. You always wanna leave a place in a better spot than it was when you got there. We were 3-9 when I came in. I think we helped change the culture and I can’t wait to see what Boston College does in the future. It’s been a fantastic ride. Boston College taught me so many things on the field and in the classroom. I’ll be forever grateful for that.
JM: I’ve really appreciated your time tonight, Zach. When a team spends a high draft pick on Zach Allen, what kind of guy are they getting?
ZA: They’re gonna get a guy who holds himself accountable. They don’t have to worry about me outside of the facility. They’re gonna get probably the hardest working guy in that building. I’m the first one in, last one out kind of guy. I really take pride in being a hard worker because at the end of the day, I can look myself in the mirror and say I poured my all into this. No matter what the outcome is, there was nothing else I could have done. Not to mention, I love to make plays. You saw that in college and hopefully you’ll continue to see that in the NFL.