In all the
buzz about the 2009 East Carolina football team’s talent,
there is an item of note that may, indeed, truly predict how well the
team’s offense will do this season. There is plenty to say about having
an experienced sixth-year quarterback at the helm, a bevy of
talented running backs and a long line of top-notch wide receivers. But
none of it will get off the ground without an effective offensive line.
One factor in the success or failure of an offense is experience and the
Pirates have a boatload of it. In fact, among their two-deep, the Pirates
boast 101 career starts – second most in all of college football
behind Conference USA brethren UAB. And sitting squarely in the middle
of that load of talent and experience is Sean Allen, the Pirates
stalwart at center. A guard converted to the middle of the interior,
Allen came seemingly from nowhere to become not only one of the most
dependable centers in the league last year, but also to having his named
mentioned on a broader scale – nationally.
Allen took the
time recently to sit down with Bonesville for a one-on-one Q &
A during which he shared his thoughts about this year’s edition of the ECU
Pirates, his teammates, and his experience working in the trenches. It
is obvious that Allen’s success is not only because of his physical
talent, but also because he understands the game, its cerebral elements.
Fresh into his final campaign, Allen shares his feelings about his last-go round in Purple & Gold.
* * * * * *
Bonesville: This is it, your final season as a Pirate. You have
earned a lot of glory in the form of All-Conference USA recognition, bowl
appearances and victory, a better record each season, and a Conference
USA Championship. What does this team... what do you have left to prove
Basically, we can prove that we can win championships here. I mean, we
are a program on the rise and last year we proved we can win big games
in beating Virginia Tech and West Virginia. But last year was a
different team and a different schedule and this year is a different
team and different schedule so we have a lot to prove beginning with
proving that last year wasn't a fluke, and we can do that by winning the
C-USA championship again.
There is a lot of talk about the offensive line being one of the most
experienced units in all of college football. What do you see as the
strengths and weaknesses and questions marks for this season?
strength of this unit is that we have all been playing together for
three or four years. You know, guys like Terrance Campbell, Cory Dowless,
T.J. Harper, Doug Palmer, D.J. Scott… we have all been here, playing
together, running the plays the together, going through the playbook
together. We work out together, we spend the summer together, we are
always together and have been for a long time. The summer is the most
important time for us together because we get to work on things
one-on-one without the coaches. We all work with the younger guys in
helping them so that we can have a hand in creating the two-deep. That
work with the younger guys is so important because, like last year, you
never know when a guy is going to go down to an injury. Last season we
lost Stanley (Bryant) for a lot of the season and had a young guy step
up and take his spot. Our biggest thing here is our depth. The guys on
the two-deep are starters.
You were sort of thrown in at center in spring of 2008 and now you are
considered an all-conference center. Walk me through that experience and
what it took for you to make such a rapid and effective transition to a
difficult position like center?
transition to center from guard was hard. At first, I didn’t want to
because there was talk about moving me to center at the end of spring
and I thought that would be a disadvantage to me, but as spring ball
went on in 2008, I got use to playing center and snapping the ball and
the timing required to do it well. The snap to the quarterback is the
most important thing for a center because if you can’t get the snap to
the quarterback, you (can't execute) the play the way you need to. I got pretty good
at it and then I got more into it.
How has your relationship with Coach (Steve) Shankweiler evolved over
the years? What are his expectations of you as the leader on the unit?
relationship with Coach Shank has grown a lot over the past three or four
years. I first met Coach Shank when he was down at South Carolina and I
knew he was a good coach and then he came up to ECU and they were
recruiting me out of Wilson. I trusted him when he was recruiting me out
of Wilson High School and since then our relationship has strengthened
as I have played ball for him and performed in the classroom. It is
important to Coach Shank that we grow both on and off the field and our
relationship has gotten tighter as I have grown.
Talk a little bit about the guys you line up next to and point to a
couple that have your utmost respect as a player? Also, point out one or
two young guys we need to look out for in the future.
guy on this line who I have the most respect for is probably Terrence
Campbell. With all he has gone through with the heart condition and
missing a year of football, he has come back through much more than a
lot guys have to deal with and he is great lineman too. Then you got
Cory Dowless who is a quiet guy on and off the field, but he really is
our leader by example. Those are two guys who really have my respect. As
far as the younger guys, you need to watch Will Simmons and Jordan
Davis, incoming freshmen. Maybe one or even both of them could be in the
two-deep by the end of the season because those two guys already are
great workers as freshmen. They both showed up and you knew they had
worked hard all summer. They could make noise in this camp.
Clearly, the results on the field demonstrate a closeness of purpose.
Are you as a group very close off the field?
are probably the closest unit on this team. During our off time we are
usually hanging out together playing video games and now in camp, you
will pretty much always find at least five of us together at any given
time. We eat together and hang out together… really are friends.
As a lineman, what do you look for in a running back to earn your
Basically, it is those backs that come to the meeting room and watch film
to understand what we do and what we see and how it relates to
what they are looking for when they get the football. Those guys who
understand our blocking schemes on each play are the ones we take note
of. Really ... the backs that spend time with us to understand are
the ones who get the most respect.
What is your relationship with quarterback Patrick Pinkney, and shed some
light on the importance of the relationship between a center and the
is the most important relationship on the field, probably. Like I said
before, getting the ball from my hands to his hands every play without
an error is the most important thing because every play requires it.
Since I moved to center, Patrick and I talk a whole lot on and off the
field. It has to be perfect and automatic. Basically, the
center-quarterback relationship is the most important relationship on
Talk about this offense’s goals for this season and how those goals
cascade to your own personal goals this season.
Eliminate the MA's (missed assignments), which means putting more points
on than we did last season. Good offenses help out their defense by
putting points on the scoreboard. For me, that means putting the
football in play and understanding and executing my assignments on each
Looking back at your career to this point, are there any individual
games or matchups in your experience that stand out to you?
Probably back in my freshman year, against N.C. State which was my
first-ever start and I was going up against one of the best D-tackles in
college football named Tank Tyler, and I got injured about the third or
fourth play of the game and I did what I had to do to finish the game
off and we beat N.C. State for my first win as a starter.
How do you handle the pre-season hype about your abilities and potential
for the NFL?
am glad that I have earned the respect and accolades, but it is
preseason so I will just take it and use it as a mental booster during
the season and hopefully I can perform better than I did last year.
When you get on the field against Appalachian State and you guys have
settled into the game, what indicators are you going to be looking for
to validate that the line is as good as it could/should be this season?
me, it starts with the very first play. I know that Coach Shank always
tells us that on the first play, he looks at the whole line to see which
team gets the most push off the first snap. If we push the defensive
line, it is a good indicator that we are ready. We work against one of
the best defensive lines around every day in practice, so we should be
ready for the season. So watch that first play.
On a team with all the talent that ECU has, name a player that you watch
and say to yourself, ‘Man that is a talented football player.’
of the best players I have ever been around is our safety Van Eskridge.
I mean, 95% of the team, maybe 100% will tell you that he is just a
great football player and a great leader. Also, you gotta respect
Patrick Pinkney… what he has been through and then getting the sixth
year. These two guys are truly our team leaders out there and deserve
the respect they get.
How do you want ECU fans to remember you after you have moved on?
want the fans to think of me as a great lineman for ECU and a great
all-around guy. I mean, it takes a lot of hard work and time for us to
get to where we are and I would love to be remembered as one of the
better linemen in ECU’s history.