UConn Athletic Communications
April 10, 2018
The yelling that keeps getting louder and faster coming from the UConn football team’s locker room is nothing to be concerned about. It’s just Special Teams Coordinator Eddie Allen getting his team meeting started.
“It’s about getting the juice going early,” Allen said. “I only have 20 minutes – not a lot of time and a lot to throw at the guys. My meetings are very fast, very loud, with a lot of energy. I’m going to be very demanding on these guys in the meetings, so I want them to be locked in when we start.”
And when they get halfway through. And when they finish. And especially when they get on the field. In fact, there is hardly any time when Allen doesn’t want his players locked in. If special teams play is the most intense aspect of a football team, Allen is the perfect man to coach it.
“I want them to play aggressive, not hold back,” said Allen, explaining both his personality and his coaching style. “I want our coverage units to get down the field and take it to the returners with the most energy we have. In the return game, I’m looking to create some explosive plays. I think the role of the special teams in football is to bridge the gap between offense and defense. There will be times during the game when those guys are going to need us to create a play, create a little juice, create some momentum for them. That’s what it’s about. I’m looking for high-energy guys, who are fast, competitive, who want to win and are willing to do a little bit extra to spark the game for us and create a big momentum play.”
There was a time in the not too distant past when UConn adopted the philosophy that kickoff and punt returns were off-limits and fair catches were mandatory. Suffice it to say, that is no longer the case. Allen not only believes special teams’ play is important, but that it can be game-changing.
““Every time somebody kicks the ball and we have the opportunity for a return, I’m trying to score,” Allen said. “Every week, when I put a plan together, I tell the kids, ‘You have a play, an opportunity here to try to score.’ And look for a chance to create the big hit. One of the things I’m most excited about being here is I want to get back to blocking punts … something I believe in, something that can really change a football game. In my history, we’ve blocked a lot of punts and with the crew we have here, I think that’s something we can tee off on. Coach (Randy) Edsall is really on board with that, the opportunity to create an explosive play.”
Allen, 37, has specialized in coaching special teams since 2005, when he was a grad assistant on head coach Greg Schiano’s staff at Rutgers, under special teams coach Darren Rizzi. Allen, a native of Somerville, N.J., was a four-year letterwinner at quarterback at the University of New Haven and spent his early coaching years at Hofstra and Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College before landing at Rutgers, where he remained for three years.
When Rizzi accepted the head coaching job at Rhode Island in 2008, he took Allen with him as special teams coordinator. In six years at URI, Allen’s special teams enjoyed great success in the Colonial Athletic Conference and he carried that with him when he moved to the University of Delaware in 2014. When UConn had an opening, Allen thought it would be a good fit.
“When I was at Rutgers in 2005, ‘06, and ’07, we had good, competitive games with UConn, so I had a good feel for the type of team that Coach Edsall likes to put together -- tough, physical, disciplined teams,” Allen said. “It always intrigued me, the opportunity to work for Coach Edsall. Then, just the staff he had here … I knew a lot of the guys here. The guys Coach Edsall put on staff, I knew what they were about.”
Allen had to hit the ground running at Storrs, arriving just before spring football began.
“When you are special teams coordinator, you really have to know the whole football team, that’s part of what I love about it,” Allen said. “I’m starting to get settled now, but the first few weeks on the job was a sprint -- get acclimated, get to know the team, put together a plan for spring ball and get a jump on recruiting.”
But it hasn’t taken Allen long to establish the kind of player he wants and needs for UConn’s special teams unit.
“What I’m looking for, and with the style we’re going to play here, are the players who will buy in,” Allen said. “Players who will go hard all the time – they practice hard, they play hard, then enjoy playing the game. A lot of guys say they love football, but not a lot of guys come to a school thinking they’re going to be the left tackle on kick return. They all envision doing bigger things.
“I’m looking for the guys who really want to have fun playing football, because that’s what special teams can do – generate a lot of energy and a lot of momentum for the team. Guys who maybe aren’t starters, or who are walk-ons, who want to enjoy the experience and willing to work really hard, then I’d love to use those guys. I’m looking for the buy-in guys who really want to win, who are committed to it. I think we’re starting to get there --- the attitude is there and the energy is starting to get where I want it to be.”
The yelling that gets louder and faster with every practice is a sure sign.
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