Former USC running backs coach Tommie Robinson spoke up, saying, "I really like this guy."
The guy Robinson was referring to was Buck Allen.
As USC worked its way through a midseason coaching change in 2013, more opportunities arose for Allen after Robinson suggested it during a coaches meeting. Allen went from being buried on the Trojans’ running back depth chart to being named the team’s MVP by season’s end.
Entering 2014, his place among USC running backs no longer is in question. There will be plenty of carries to go around between Allen, Tre Madden and Justin Davis, but it will be Allen who’ll lead the pack.
Strengths: One of the first few things first-year running backs coach Johnny Nansen noticed about Allen was his ability to put his head down, his work ethic and he doesn’t complain. As it turns out, Allen had plenty to complain about but never did. He patiently waited his turn and, when it came time, he took full advantage. His workmanlike attitude has brought him a long way, but it hasn’t affected his appetite for success. Allen spent a good portion of the offseason hanging around Nansen’s office, trying to learn more and more about the team’s new offense. This, coming off of an MVP campaign.
Weaknesses: As great as 2013 was for Allen, there still were some fundamental areas he needed to work on. The most glaring was carrying the ball in his left hand. First-year head coach Steve Sarkisian said he saw it plenty of times on last season’s film and even during spring, where Allen would run to his left and carry the ball in his right or inside arm, which prevented him from using a stiff arm against oncoming defenders. It also made the ball more prone to attack. During the spring, Allen suffered an ankle injury while running to his left, with the ball in his right arm. The injury was an eye-opener for him to be better with fundamentals, Sarkisian says, and it’s expected he’ll be better in that area in 2014.
Biggest impact players for USC: No. 3, QB Cody Kessler.
Key stat: 6.6. In 12 games last season, Allen had 1,026 yards from scrimmage, averaging 6.6 yards per touch. The bulk of those yards came in the team’s final nine games of the season. That’s when Allen started to make a name for himself.
Quotable: "He’s what I call a complete back. Not only can he run the power plays but he can be in space and catch the football …he’s got great hands and with what we do on offense you got to have those qualities," Nansen said.
Final thoughts: Bishop Sankey ran for 1,870 yards in Sarkisian’s offense in Washington last season. Allen can’t be expected to put up those type of rushing yards, given the overall depth in the Trojans’ backfield. But he certainly will be a weapon for quarterback Cody Kessler, whether he’s handing the ball off to Allen or dumping it to him in the flat on passing downs. Allen is explosive in the running game, but it’s his ability as a pass catcher that sets him apart — in 2013, he averaged 11.5 yards per reception.