Will Devon Allen Be a Difference Maker for the Ducks This Year?
You may know Devon Allen’s name from his recent record-breaking hurdling performance in the NCAA Western regionals, but the redshirt freshman is still somewhat of an unknown on the football field. Allen is working tirelessly to change that unknown status by establishing himself as a difference-making receiver for the Ducks, and I believe he’s in for a huge 2014 season.
When Bralon Addison — easily the Ducks most experienced receiver — went down in early April with an ACL tear in his left knee, many questions loomed over the suddenly unheralded and unproven Ducks’ receiving corps. Outside of senior Keanon Lowe, this group of receivers has seen very little in-game reps collectively. The inexperienced group, which includes Allen, BJ Kelley, Dwayne Stanford and Darren Carrington, will have to compete amongst themselves for the starting receiver spot opposite Lowe.
None of these receivers have impressed anyone enough to lock down a starting role yet, although Allen’s 94-yard, two-touchdown performance in the Oregon spring game reflected how much work he’s putting in. The following reasons highlight why I believe Allen can and eventually will separate himself from the rest of the crowd.
Oregon’s dynamic offense requires players to have multi-faceted games, and Allen certainly fits the bill. Allen’s spring game performance included two rushes for nine yards, but one could’ve gone for a lot more had he not caught his foot in the turf.
Allen said that after the spring game he was comfortable in the long and short passing game, as well as the run game. And he should be. As you can see in the following clip of Allen’s junior year season at Brophy College Prep in Phoenix, Ariz., Allen was utilized not only as a deep threat wide-out but also did some jet sweeps and was occasionally used in the backfield. The link below exhibits Allen’s versatility in high school.
If you jump to the 5:12 mark of the video, you can also see his skills as a punt returner and the 8:14 mark, for his blocking ability.
Coaches have mainly positioned Allen at wide-out so far in his college career, but he appears to be more than capable of playing anywhere on the field, as he showed in high school that he is a true jack-of-all-trades.
If you have any doubt about Allen’s athletic abilities, look no further than his recent efforts as a hurdler on the Oregon track and field team. In last weekend’s NCAA Western Regionals, Allen shattered the Oregon record in the 110 meter hurdles with a time of 13.27 seconds.
But make no mistake about it, Allen is not a track star-turned-football player. He has focused the majority of his time on football this spring, making his hurdling performance even more impressive. Head coach Mark Helfrich believes Allen’s track speed and athleticism has translated well to the gridiron.
“We’ve had very high expectations for him,” Helfrich said after the spring game. “He’s getting track speed out on the football field. We love tough track guys. There’s that perception that a track guy is soft. That’s absolutely not the case if they’re the right guy.”
Good Chemistry with Mariota
One of Allen’s two touchdown receptions in the spring game came on a broken play that forced Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota to scramble out of the pocket. Allen ran a backside post on the play and continued to run in the direction of a scrambling Mariota. Allen’s heads up play resulted in Mariota hitting him on the money for a 49-yard score. Mariota praised Allen’s performance after the game.
“He was able to implement what we did in practice into the game,” Mariota said. “That’s huge to see out of someone as young as he is to be able to have his head on a swivel and recognize [the play].”
Those words are very encouraging coming from the leader of the team. The two appear to have great chemistry in the small amount of game action they’ve seen together so far. If this continues and they build on their good start, Allen has a great chance of making an major impact for the Ducks this year. Surely there will be mistakes along the way for the freshman, but Allen appears to be the most capable receiver to replace Addison. We’ll have to wait and see if Mark Helfrich feels the same way.
Top photo by Kevin Cline