WEST LAFAYETTE -- Purdue cornerback Ricardo Allen wants to set the record straight. He is not a little guy. Roster weights and depth chart numbers don't reflect reality.
“Everybody thinks I'm 175 pounds,” the junior says. “I go into games and I'm listed at 5-9 and 175.”
Not true, he says.
“I'm 188. I've been there since my freshman year.”
And then, he offers a concession.
“I am 5-9,” he says with a laugh.
The depth chart lists Allen at 186 pounds. Perhaps he was weighed after an intense workout and sweated off a few pounds. Or, perhaps, there's a conspiracy that reaches to the highest levels of the Purdue athletic department.
“I've put on weight,” Allen insists. “I've gotten stronger and faster. I feel like I'm smarter. I know what I can do now.”
Allen is confident. Actually, he pushes past confident to the brink of cockiness. Perhaps that's his response to his perception that people see him as small. Yes, that's psychologically deep, but work with us here.
“My high school coach always told me I had Little Man Syndrome,” he says. “I'd always get into fights in games.”
You fought in games?
“Well, not necessarily fights, but battles with wide receivers. My coach would say I was mad because they were taller than me. I feel there's a chip on my shoulder because everyone thinks I'm small and that they can boss me around. That's not the case. I'm going to battle it out play by play. I'll show all 5-9 of me will fight all day.”
Allen fights a good fight. The junior is tied with Rod Woodson, the former Snider standout and NFL Hall of Famer, and Mike Rose for the school record for interceptions returned for touchdowns, with three. He has six career interceptions and 154 career tackles.
“Ricardo is a great player,” coach Danny Hope says. “He was a star as soon as he came on campus. He was an instant success -- freshman All-America, all-Big Ten type player.”
Now that Allen is a junior, he's ready to set lofty goals, and if they're unattainable, so what? His No. 1 goal is to not let any receiver he's covering catch a pass. That's not just for Saturday's season opener against Eastern Kentucky. It's for all 12 games during the regular season, plus a possible bowl game.
Nobody, not even Woodson in his prime, could do that.
“You set a goal you know you can't attain,” Allen says. “If you set a goal you can attain, you're selling yourself short. Once you achieve your goals, you slow down. If you have a goal that you know you can't reach, you always work to stay close to that goal.”
Allen has relayed that philosophy to new defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar, who has brought a multiple, diverse defensive package with him from the Canadian Football League. Allen is an aggressive guy and he'd prefer aggressive coverages. Instead, he'll likely get a mix of man to man and zone defenses.
“Whatever Coach Tibesar calls, we have to play and go with it,” Allen says, “but I like man. Let me earn my scholarship. Let (the receiver) earn his scholarship. Let us battle it out and see who wins.”
Make no mistake, Allen expects to win more than he loses.
“I think I'll be much better this year. Before I was a freshman and sophomore playing against juniors and seniors, some super (fifth-year) seniors. I went against the best and the worst. Now I'm playing against people in my class or younger than me. I think that's an advantage.”
Speed is one of Allen's biggest advantages. He's one of the fastest players on Hope's fastest Purdue team. He says he's run as fast as a 4.26 second 40-yard dash. Over the summer he ran a 4.28 and “they didn't let me run again. I don't know why. I feel I was going to run faster.”
Allen is up for numerous national defensive player awards, including the Jim Thorpe Award for the nation's top defensive back.
“Ricardo is a football junkie,” Hope says. “He does a great job of studying himself and studying the opponent. He's very competitive. He always shows up. You never have to worry about him showing up.
“He's stepped up as a leader. He was voted by his teammates as a captain. That's important for Ricardo because that's the next step for him, that leadership part, for him to be an impact player.”
Tibesar's defensive approach should boost Allen's impact.
“The defense has changed a lot,” Allen says. “We're getting around the ball faster. We have schemes I've never seen before. We're swarming the ball and making plays. We have had chances to get the ball on the ground in the past, but didn't have enough people around the ball to get it, or didn't have enough pressure on the quarterback. We're more experienced now and we will make more plays.”
Allen figures to take full advantage.
“They have me moving all around so I can't get taken out of plays. That gives us a chance to show what our defense is really about.
“I think the defense will be great this year.”
Hope has this qualifier:
“The better our defensive line plays, the better Ricardo Allen will play. We have the potential to have an awfully good defensive front. That's going to make Ricardo, and all of the secondary, a lot more productive.”
According to GoldandBlack.com, a Purdue sports on-line publication, Hope has dismissed linebacker Dwayne Beckford from the team. Beckford was indefinitely suspended late Monday night after his arrest on charges of possession of paraphernalia and possession of a synthetic drug. Hope made the announcement after Wednesday's practice.
Beckford, the team's leading returning tackler, had been suspended from the team after last December's arrest for driving while intoxicated. He was suspended the entire second semester and lost his scholarship, although he was reinstated in May. Beckford has been arrested four times since June 2011.