USC's Buck Allen is making history at Tailback U
It turns out Marcus Allen knew his unrelated successor in the USC backfield was capable of such success long before the tailback known as Buck emerged as one of the most productive running backs in the nation.
Marcus Allen, a Hall of Famer in the pro and college ranks, met with the Trojans shortly after Lane Kiffin's midseason dismissal last year. He encouraged the younger Allen to maintain his focus despite having been buried on the depth chart during the previous regime.
''He just said, `Buck, if you keep working the way you are working, it's going to pay off,''' Buck Allen said. ''And it did. Whatever you put in, that's what you are going to get out of it. And he was absolutely correct.''
Allen scored his first two career touchdowns in USC's next game before emerging as the feature back with 133 yards rushing and three touchdowns in a win at Oregon State. Since then, the Tallahassee, Florida, native has rushed for 100 yards in 12 of the last 15 games.
Pacing the Pac-12 with 124.9 yards rushing per game, Allen is on track to become the first USC player to lead the conference in rushing since Ricky Ervins did so in 1989 - a shocking drought for the school long known as Tailback U.
But Allen insists those totals mean nothing to him.
''I'm just here to help my team win,'' Allen said. ''Breaking records and stats and all that is not important for me. That's for the fans.''
''Unless someone brings it to my attention, I wouldn't even know,'' he added.
Offensive coordinator Clay Helton is much more willing to tout Allen's accomplishments, praising his maturation and development as a ''complete back.''
Helton credits Allen for becoming a tougher runner capable of grinding out yards between the tackles. His best trait, Helton noted, is the explosiveness Allen shows in the open field as a runner or receiver out of the backfield.
''Every time he breaks into that linebacker-secondary (level), I hold my breath because you really think that he is going to take it the distance,'' Helton said.
California, which comes to the Coliseum on Thursday night, knows exactly that feeling. Allen gutted the Golden Bears' defense for touchdowns of 43, 57 and 79 yards in a 62-28 win last season, totaling 192 yards on just seven touches.
While Cal has made significant strides this season under new defensive coordinator Art Kaufman, hearing Allen say the open week allowed him to ''get my legs back'' has to bring up visions of what he might do with a full workload.
Helton hinted that very scenario could happen, saying that Allen has the durability to easily handle 25 or more carries per game with his 6-foot-1, 220-pound frame. Coach Steve Sarkisian expects that winning the final three games of the regular season, including against rivals UCLA and Notre Dame, will require the full force of Allen's relentlessness.
It is that work ethic that has Allen in position to do what the likes of Reggie Bush and LenDale White could not. And even if Allen won't seek praise, teammates like freshman offensive lineman Toa Lobendahn will do it for him.
''I know it would be tremendous for him,'' Lobendahn said. ''He's been a hard-working guy since he has been here, and I haven't been here to see that. I could already tell when I got here.''
Helton said he cites Allen's progress as a path for young players to follow when they want more playing time.
''Some guys need to learn the game a little bit more and become a more polished player,'' Helton said. ''Buck was that. Buck was coming into his own. He didn't get frustrated. He kept on learning, he kept on progressing as a back, and then when given his opportunity, he made the most of it. He said, `I don't want to give this job up,' and he didn't.''