Pierre Allen already knew his coaching staff had some pretty high expectations for him this season. He just didn't know quite how high they actually were.
In an interview with the Husker Sports Network earlier this month before the start of fall camp, Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini referred to the junior defensive end and a budding "superstar" in the making.
"He has amazed me," Pelini said. "I think back to last year when (Barry Turner) got hurt and Pierre came in. We were very confident in Pierre. I knew he could be a player and I knew he could do the things we needed him to do. He got better and he kept getting better every week and every game. The experience was so good for him to get all those snaps.
"Then he came into the spring and I'm telling you he was a different player. He suddenly went from being a reliable player to being a guy who could be the next superstar here."
Obviously, praise like that doesn't come all that often from Pelini or his brother, head coach Bo Pelini. So when Carl Pelini described Allen as a potential superstar, it definitely carried some significant weight.
Still, Allen has kept his ego grounded in spite of it.
When asked about his coach's praise for him, Allen merely laughed it off, even though it was the first time he had heard of the remark.
"I'm glad he thinks of me like that, but I just take it day-by-day, play-by-play and try to get better," Allen said.
Luckily, it's not like Pelini is showering Allen with compliments just to make him feel good about himself. Allen said NU's coaching staff does a good job of mixing praise with criticism, which he said was good to keep players from getting oversized egos while still knowing they're doing things right in practice.
In fact, Allen said he would actually prefer it if his coaches saved their good words for now, at least until the season is over.
"I wouldn't want to tell a player that either because it could pump his head up and getting him thinking about other things that he shouldn't be thinking about," I'm glad that they don't tell me stuff like that so I can just focus on getting better. I don't ever want to settle."
Allen has kept a modest approach about his development since filling in for Turner when he went down with a season-ending knee injury in the second game of the season last year. However, it's not as if he hasn't seen a noticeable difference in his play compared to a year ago.
"I definitely feel that, and I see it on film," Allen said. "I'm way faster. (Strength and condition coach James Dobson) did a great job with me over the summer. I got a heck of a lot stronger, more flexible. That's where it starts, and I can definitely see that transitioning onto the field.
"I'm trying to master it now. Last year I was learning it, and now I've learned it and now I'm trying to master it. I want to be the best at it and know the ins and outs of everything."
Allen has the potential to live up to Pelini's claim even more due to the fact that he'll likely see primarily single blocking assignments from opposing offenses this season. With guys like Ndamukong Suh, Jared Crick and Turner lined up next to him, opponents will only be able to double-team so many players.
That's where Allen sees himself making them pay every time they don't choose him.
"That's going to open up a lot of one-on-ones for me, and I'm going to try and take advantage of them," Allen said. "I don't believe anybody can stop me one-on-one neither."
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