For the upcoming 2009 college football season Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Jimmy Clausen faces the responsibility of leading the offense.
But an important factor to the success of the Irish offense will be the play of running back Armando Allen.
Over the past two seasons the Irish offensive line has been often maligned and left many simply scratching their head over their ineffectiveness. With the addition of offensive line/running backs coach Frank Verducci from the NFL, it is expected that the big boys up front will be a much better unit.
However much blame can rightly be assigned to the offensive line the truth is that the Irish running backs need to step up their game just as much.
And the pressure is squarely on the shoulders of soon to be junior Armando Allen.
At times we have seen glimpses of the talented player most observers believe Allen can be, but his first two years in college football have been very inconsistent. Still, as a member of two of the worst rushing attacks in Notre Dame history, Allen has put together a resume that would have you believe he was the one bright spot on the team.
Two factors that have worked against Allen have been Notre Dame’s tendency to fall behind early and abandon the running game as well as the team not having a go to primary back. This has left Allen with a pitiful amount of carries after two years in South Bend.
In 2007 Allen only carried the ball more than 10 times in a game on two separate occasions.
These occurred in back to back games against USC and Navy racking up an impressive total of 149 yards on 27 carries. As a more experienced sophomore last year Allen only carried the ball over ten times in a game on six occasions while never having carried the ball 20 times a game in his entire career.
So coming into his third year in South Bend Allen has 933 yards on 220 attempts. These are numbers to expect for one year if a runner is the featured back. With James Aldridge apparently moving to fullback Allen has only fellow classmate Robert Hughes and inexperienced but talented sophomore Jonas Gray to compete with.
There may be a small possibility that incoming freshman Cierre Wood will see some action but expect a three man competition for most of the season. Out of this competition Armando Allen must step up and assert himself as the featured back. And I believe he will do this.
In my eyes Robert Hughes is not the answer for the Irish ground attack and his carries should be limited to short yardage situations. Hughes’ speed does not scare any opponents and although he does show impressive footwork at times, he just isn’t much of a threat. At 237 pounds he’s a solid and tough backup.
With Jonas Gray still inexperienced this means the onus is on Armando Allen to take the reins of the Irish ground game. Allen is more than capable and ready to take on this responsibility and excel. He has great speed and agility and has been a reliable receiving option out of the backfield for Jimmy Clausen. The only concern may be that his duties as the number one back and punt/kick returner may wear him down a bit.
Nonetheless, with the new attitude and coaching on the offensive line and big threats at wideout and tight end, Allen will have a great opportunity to have a breakout season. Look for #5 to carry the ball over two hundred times this year and crack the 1,000 yard mark while finding the end zone over ten times.