USC Football: Full Stat Projections for Buck Allen in 2014
Running back Javorius "Buck" Allen emerged as the face of USC's second-half resurgence in 2013. The redshirt junior went from seldom-used reserve to the primary weapon in the Trojans' 7-2 finish.
With USC head coach Steve Sarkisian introducing a hurry-up offense, Allen should see more opportunities to shine in 2014.
Sarkisian first implemented the system at Washington last season, and former Huskies running back Bishop Sankey finished as the nation's No. 4-ranked ball-carrier. Allen told Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated Sankey offered high praise of the offensive scheme.
"He was telling me how good [Sarkisian's] system is, the things to look forward to," Allen said. "Right now I'm loving it. I love the playbook we have, I love the fast tempo."
More snaps from the faster tempo offense equates to more touches, which means Allen could have a very big statistical year ahead of him.
The USC backfield is crowded with potential difference-makers. Sophomore Ty Isaac is an intriguing power-back, redshirt junior Tre Madden was effective as the primary ball-carrier last season before suffering a hamstring injury, and Justin Davis showed off his explosiveness prior to a season-ending ankle injury.
Any of the three can share carries with Allen. And while Sarkisian relied on a clear No. 1 back to shoulder much of the run-game load a season ago, the Trojans head coach told Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated he had other plans.
"We're not going to stray too far away from who we are. We're going to run two-back power, we're going to run two-back lead. Those are the things we do well."
With so many options in the Trojans' ground attack, Allen told Fox Sports' Rahshaun Haylock he's prepared to take on any role the coaching staff asks of him.
"If they need me to be a leader, if they need me to go out there and play center or whatever they need me to do I'll do it. I'm a team guy," Allen said.
Allen may not be the 327-carry back Sankey was for Washington a season ago, but he should see a substantially heavier workload in 2014.
The lone question mark is if Allen can produce consistently against stout run-stop defenses. He eclipsed the century mark against Oregon State, Cal, Colorado and UCLA, none of which ranked any better than No. 72 nationally against the run.
Against Notre Dame and Stanford, Allen was held to 46 combined yards on 23 carries.
Fresno State, USC's 2014 Week 1 opponent, sold out on the run in the Las Vegas Bowl and limited Allen to 3.2 yards per carry. The Trojans responded with an aerial attack. Allen needs similar balance from the passing game to keep defenses honest.
Projection: 275 carries for 1,540 yards
Few running backs in college football had a nose for the end zone quite like Allen last season. Allen rushed for 14 scores, tied for fourth-most in the Pac-12 with Oregon's Byron Marshall and Arizona State's Marion Grice—and he did so with 33 fewer carries than Marshall and 56 fewer than Grice.
Allen's 1-to-9.6 touchdown-to-carry ratio bested that of Sankey, Stanford's Tyler Gaffney and Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey, all of whom rushed well over 300 times.
While he may not score at such a torrid pace in 2014 as he takes on a heavier workload, Allen's shown he can extend plays in order to convert them into scoring opportunities.
He's able to complete the big play with a combination of size—Allen stands 6'1" and weighs 215 pounds—and elusiveness. Former interim head coach Ed Orgeron touted the latter quality on a teleconference call in November 2013.
"He can pick the hole well, break tackles," Orgeron said.
Allen should see more of the end zone in 2014, both on breakaway runs and in red-zone situations.
Projection: 20 rushing touchdowns
Allen became a favorite target for quarterback Cody Kessler down the stretch of 2013. Allen had six games with multiple receptions, including a run of three-plus in each of the Trojans' final four outings.
Kessler was named starting quarterback over redshirt freshman Max Browne last month. Should Kessler maintain his spot atop the depth chart through preseason camp, look for his chemistry with Allen to continue its growth into the fall.
That partnership may in fact be a necessary catalyst for the Trojans early in the season. Allen's reliability gave Kessler an out when the pocket collapsed and alleviated some of the questions USC faced with a depleted receiving corps.
The Trojans return 2013 receiving leader Nelson Agholor, but the corps' initial uncertainty beyond him could mean a heavy dose of Allen out of the backfield.
Projection: 32 reception for 350 yards
For as frequently as he was targeted late last season, Allen only reached the end zone on a reception once: his 57-yard score in a rout of Cal. Coincidentally, that's the same total number of receiving touchdowns Sankey accrued in his entire Washington career.
Much as it does this year, USC featured a multifaceted backfield in Sarkisian's final season as offensive coordinator, 2008. Running backs Joe McKnight and C.J. Gable and fullback Stanley Havili combined for five touchdown receptions that campaign, with Havili accounting for three.
Sarkisian's penchant for using the tight end in the red zone limits the likelihood of targeting backs on swing routes and screens near the goal line.
Still, Allen demonstrated his ability to break for the long score against Cal. Afterward in his postgame press conference, Allen offered a comment on his opportunity to see playing time, via CalBears.com.
"I know what I’m capable of. It was just me biding my time and waiting for my chance," he said.
The same sentiment could apply to his scoring off the pass next season.
Projection: Two receiving touchdowns
Statistics compiled via CFBStats.com
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