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Clemson TE Dwayne Allen to enter draft

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Clemson's high-scoring offense is losing one of its most important weapons to the NFL.

All-American tight end Dwayne Allen said Friday night he's giving up his senior season to enter the NFL draft. Allen, the John Mackey Award winner this year as the nation's top tight end, is the top-ranked tight end by ESPN's Scouts Inc. and the No. 30 overall ranked player.

"I am basically turning professional because I feel I am ready," Allen said. "This is the appropriate time."

Underclassmen have until Jan. 18 to change their minds and return to school as long as they haven't hired an agent. Allen, though, says he's matured as a player and a person and is prepared for the next step in his career.

The NFL is also ready for the 6-foot-4, 255-pound Allen, who has sure hands, powerful arms and the knack for getting free in the secondary.

Allen caught 50 passes for 598 yards and eight touchdowns -- all single-season Clemson records -- to help the Tigers (10-4) to their first Atlantic Coast Conference championship in 20 years. He was also picked for the AP's All-America first team.

"Dwayne has a great future and I fully support his decision to enter the NFL," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said.

Allen, from Fayetteville, N.C., came to Clemson in 2008 with tremendous potential and an ego to match. After redshirting his first season, Allen was expected to jump right in as a playmaker in 2009. But he spent most his time behind senior Michael Palmer on Clemson's ACC Atlantic Division winning squad that featured stars C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford.

Allen also had trouble finding a role in 2010, too, as Clemson struggled to its first losing season (6-7) in 12 years

Allen wasn't afraid to let people know when he felt he wasn't being used properly. When Clemson's coordinator Chad Morris was hired last January, Allen asked him point blank if there was a place for the tight end in his fast-paced scheme.

Morris told Allen that if he stuck with the plan, he'd become the most versatile tight end in the country. Allen listened and worked his way into a stellar season, his catches, yards and touchdown this year surpassing those of his first two years at Clemson.

In Clemson's 38-24 win over Auburn earlier this year, Allen caught seven passes for 80 yards and a score. He followed that with four catches for 61 yards in the win over Florida State and four for 75-yards and a touchdown in the win over 10th ranked Virginia Tech in the regular season.

Allen had two more TD catches against the Hokies in the 38-10 ACC title game win last month.

Clemson led the ACC in passing offense at 282 yards a game. The Tigers were second in the league in scoring and total offense.

Allen also became the offense's chief cheerleader and its voice of reason. "I have matured as a player and a person over the last four years at Clemson," Allen said.

Allen said he's got 13 hours left in his undergraduate work for a health science degree and planned to finish that when possible.

Allen leaves Clemson with 93 catches for 1,079 yards and 12 TDs. His receptions and touchdowns tied him with John McMakin (1969-71) for Clemson's career marks for tight ends.

Allen was the first Clemson tight end to make an All-America team since Bennie Cunningham, the former Pittsburgh Steelers' great, did it in 1975.

Allen thanked his coaches, teammates and fans. "Without then, this would not be possible," he said.

Swinney said he's never been prouder of a player's development than Allen's. "I look forward to watching him continue his journey," the coach said.

One of the other top tight end prospects, Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert, said Friday he is coming back for his senior year instead of heading to the NFL.

Eifert had 63 catches for 803 yards -- Notre Dame single-season records for a tight end -- and five TD catches last season.

Information from ESPN.com's Joe Schad and The Associated Press was used in this report.