- Erin Kirkland/Daily
By Stephen J. Nesbitt, Daily Sports Editor
Published October 4, 2012
Ricardo Allen can’t shake one moment from Michigan’s 36-14 victory over Purdue last season. It’s the image of redshirt junior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint dashing on a diagonal through the Boilermakers’ defense for a long 59-yard touchdown run.
Allen, a junior cornerback and three-year starter, was named to the All-Big Ten second team last season after a team-leading three interceptions.
Before the season, the Daily sat down with Allen at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago in late July to get his take on preparing for Toussaint, senior quarterback Denard Robinson and the Michigan offense.
The Michigan Daily: Just to open things up, where do your see your team at right now, in late July, and personally what was your summer like?
Ricardo Allen: I think we’re doing really good, and we’ve worked really hard. We have this thing called ‘Boiler Games’ which is like an NFL Draft — you have a couple captains that come out and draft the players that they want on their team for different types of tests: a strength test, a speed test, an agility test, precision test — it was great and helped everybody. On Friday mornings we have 6 a.m. workouts and it made everyone really happy. Some people don’t like 6 a.m. workouts but we actually enjoyed it a lot.
Coming off of spring practice, it was a great spring, and everyone was just excited. Everyone wanted to keep going in spring. I haven’t been around a team that’s been so positive and so ready to get into camp.
TMD: What’s the outlook on your defense this fall?
RA: We’re gonna put up great numbers. We’re gonna have more turnovers and we’re gonna put our offense in a better position to make more players. We have an All-American defensive tackle, we have great defensive ends, we have really good linebackers and we have experience in the secondary. A lot of people have been playing against a very young, inexperienced defense at Purdue, and now we’re all juniors and seniors and that’s gonna show.
TMD: What sticks with you from the Michigan game last year?
RA: I remember Toussaint cutting all the back on our defense and running up the middle for a 60-yard gain for a touchdown. We have to play better than that. Us as a defense has to have more pride than let someone do that to us.
TMD: Pretty neat atmosphere up there in Ann Arbor?
RA: It is a great atmosphere for the Michigan team. (laughs) It’s a great place to play at, and it’s a beautiful stadium and it’s a great team to play against. When you go into situations like that, you really have to prepare yourself and be ready for it.
TMD: You mentioned Toussaint, but it’s a dual-threat backfield there with Fitz and Denard Robinson, of course. How does a defense go about preparing to face a backfield with two guys who were 1,000-yard rushers last season?
RA: It’s really difficult to practice against. It’s really difficult to train against because if you don’t have a player who can do the same things that Denard does in practice or do the things that Toussaint does in practice, it’s really hard to simulate. All you can do is try to envision, but that’s usually not enough. It’s really hard to stop them because Toussaint’s a great runner who is going to rush for 1,000 yards every year. Denard Robinson is a great runner, he’s going to rush for 1,000.
The thing is you have to always cover Toussaint and you always have to keep someone to cover Denard, because if you don’t it’s going to be a run. They can both take off running at any time, and if you don’t have someone to contain Denard he can pass it. It’s really hard to go against them, but it gets you prepared for every other team.
TMD: When you’ve prepared for Michigan the last few years, has the emphasis as a defense been to force Denard Robinson to pass?
RA: You really want to, but he’s pretty good at that too. He does a pretty good job at that. The best thing for us is to get the ball out of Denard’s hands. If you can get the ball out of his hands and into somebody else’s hands — which is what we did last year, and he didn’t have to make too many plays, but Toussaint stepped up — but then you have to stop the other player.
TMD: Denard enters the season with some Heisman hype, and whether or not that plays out, does it give the defense an extra kick to play a high-profile player like that midseason?
RA: I’ve gone against these players like Denard and Montee Ball for the last three years and it’s always great to show that the Big Ten has been evolving and coming to better days. Everyone always looks at, ‘Oh, the SEC has all the premier players,’ but that’s not always the case. I haven’t seen Wisconsin lose to too many teams like that. I haven’t seen Michigan lose to too many teams. It’s a great thing for the Big Ten, and gets more publicity for the Big Ten and shows more of what we can do.