Tracking the Stars of the Future

Football Recruiting Report
Thursday, April 25, 2013

By Sammy Batten


Juco Allen eyes chance to shine

Nation's leading juco rusher shores up RB corps

By Sammy Batten
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Breon Allen was dangling in recruiting limbo late last February when he received a telephone call from East Carolina special teams coordinator and running backs coach, Kirk Doll.

Despite having led the nation's junior college ranks in rushing at Snow College in Emphraim, UT, Allen still didn't have any scholarship offers and was beginning to wonder if any would be forthcoming. He had spoken briefly with Doll around national signing day in early February, but at that time was told ECU had no scholarships left to offer.

But somewhere between signing day and early March the situation at ECU changed.

"He (Doll) called back about a month later and said they had a scholarship available,'' Allen said. " I came in for a visit and just loved it. I accepted on the spot.''

Allen actually signed a national letter of intent while on the campus visit in early March to officially become the 25th member of ECU's recruiting Class of 2013.

He is the second junior college running back to sign with the Pirates, joining Terrell Lane from Hutchinson Community College. Lane, from Norton, KS, finished just behind Allen in JUCO rushing last season with 1,629 yards.

The 5-foot-8, 180-pound Allen led all JUCO rushers in yardage (1,632) and touchdowns (20). The performance earned Allen Western States Football League Player of the Year and first-team junior college All-American honors. He'll depart Snow College as the school's all-time leading rusher with 2,404 yards.

Allen must first complete requirements for an Associate of Arts degree at Snow before enrolling at East Carolina. But he said Wednesday in a telephone interview from Utah that he expects to fulfill those requirements by this summer.

When Allen arrives in Greenville it will mark the end of a long, winding and sometimes frustrating journey to the Football Bowl Subdivision ranks.

The trip began in Daytona, FL, where Allen started playing tackle football at the age of 9, thanks to a huge sacrifice made by his mother,
Lakeisha Bowdell.

"It's actually kind of a funny story now,'' Allen said. "I begged my Mom to let me play (football), but we really didn't have enough money (for participation fee). My Mom decided not to pay the light bill for one month so I could play.

"Everything turned out OK, so I guess that was a good thing.''

Allen quickly became a star running back as he rose through the Pop Warner League to the middle school and finally the high school ranks at Warner Christian Academy. He helped propel Warner Christian to the three consecutive state Class 1B championship games while piling up a then-school career record of 4,424 rushing yards.

Many FBS programs recruited Allen at Warner Christian and scholarship offers came in from the likes of Eastern Michigan, Illinois State, Marshall and Tennessee State. But Allen actually made a verbal commitment prior to the start of his senior season to the University of Pittsburgh and then-head coach Dave Wannstedt.

But Wannstedt's dismissal after the 2010 season and Allen's own academic issues led to that opportunity being lost.

Allen wound up signing a letter of intent to Football Championship Subdivision program at Bethune-Cookman. But academics again derailed his entry and sent him packing his bags for Ephraim, a town of about 7,000 people located in the middle of Utah.

"It was frustrating, but it was my fault,'' Allen said. "I didn't have my grades in order. I don't even know if I would have had a scholarship (to Pitt) after Wannstedt left anyway.

"I had heard about the junior college route from my mentor, P.J. Smith, who had gone to Dodge City (junior college) in Kansas. I was trying to avoid that route. I was a little nervous about it. But if I wanted to keep playing football, I had to go for it.''

So Allen traveled more than 2,000 miles from Daytona Beach to Ephraim where he experienced complete culture shock.

"My goodness, I had never been out of Florida, except to Georgia once and New York once,'' he said. "When I came out here, I had never seen a mountain before. I had never seen an elk before. I had never seen a deer as big as humans. It was crazy, man.''

Allen's career at Snow was filled with highlights, but one of the biggest occurred on September 15 last season in a game against Glendale Community College. He earned National Junior College Athletic Association's Player of the Week honors after racking up 281 rushing yards and three touchdowns in a 50-33 victory.

East Carolina will be getting a back in Allen who can run and and catch the football.

"I've got deceptive strength,'' Allen said in describing his running style. "I can run between the tackles, and I like to do that. I'm an excellent ball catcher. I catch real good out of the backfield. I could move out and be a slot receiver if I had to be. I feel like I'm the complete package. I can even return kicks.''

If Allen completes his academic work at Snow College, he could be a factor for ECU next fall. The backfield situation for the Pirates is a bit uncertain due to the indefinite suspension of last year's 1,000-yard rusher, Vintavious Cooper. Cooper, who also came to Greenville from the JUCO ranks, was suspended in May after being arrested on a misdemeanor charge of marijuana possession.

Without Cooper in camp for spring practice, the only scholarship backs with experience on the ECU roster were sophomore Chris Hairston and senior Zico Pasut. Hairston, however, missed a most of the spring with a shoulder injury.

The team's top rusher in the annual Purple and Gold scrimmage to end spring drills was a walk-on, Cory Hunter, who ran 15 times for 61 yards. Michael Dobson, who was a backup running back last season, shifted to defensive back in the spring.

"It's exciting because I think that offense is a perfect fit for a back like me,'' Allen said. "I like to be in the open field where I can make a lot of people miss. When I saw that offense and how they use the running back in the backfield and in the slot, I went, 'Wow! That's where I make the money at.' It's perfect.''

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06/12/2013 02:55 AM