It’s a testament to the unpredictability of recruiting — and college football, in general — that the most lightly-regarded running back in Southern California’s 2011 recruiting class would up being a star ball carrier for the Trojans.
But you also have to credit the fact that Javorius “Buck” Allen, a three-star recruit who exploded onto the scene for the Trojans in 2013, never considered transferring. Even after he only had six carries playing behind three other backs in 2012.
“I never thought about it,” Allen said. “It’s not like I felt like I lacked talent or that I wasn’t good enough to play at USC. It just wasn’t my time. The coaching staff maybe didn’t see something in me.”
It didn’t look like his time would come in 2013, either. But then, coach Lane Kiffin got fired after the fifth game.
Allen emerged from the bench and scored two touchdowns the next week, but even then, he was still sharing carries with Silas Redd, Tre Madden and Justin Davis.
“It was pretty hard, but I always know the man upstairs has a plan,” Allen said. “I trust Him and I believe in myself. I knew I could succeed.”
Allen grew stronger as the season went on. He started the final four games and finished with 785 yards and 14 touchdowns in 135 carries on the way to being chosen the team’s MVP, leading to questions about why Kiffin didn’t call his number earlier.
“I never let a man tell me I can’t do something,” Allen said. “I didn’t transfer because I knew I was talented enough to play at the University of Southern California.
“At that time, the head coach probably saw something I wasn’t doing or that he wasn’t ready to put me in.”
Allen’s next coach, Steve Sarkisian, did not have that problem. Sarkisian gave the ball to Allen plenty in 2014, as he carried the ball 276 times for 1,489 yards and 11 touchdowns. Allen also got to show off his receiving ability, catching 41 passes for 458 yards and a touchdown.
“It was great,” Allen said. “I got to show the country what I could do with a full year. I have to thank the coaching staff for trusting in me. Coach (Steve Sarkisian) did a wonderful job coming in. We had a great game plan every week and wonderful schemes. We got the job done. He called on me a lot, and when he did, I performed to the best of my ability and took advantage of it.”
Allen hopes his production, size — he is 6 feet and 221 pounds — and versatility as a runner and receiver will be attractive to teams seeking a do-it-all back in this year’s NFL Draft.
“I’m very unique,” said Allen, who is widely expected to be a mid-round pick. “I have great hands, and I can be a workhorse for a team. You’re going to have to drag me off the field because I love the game of football.”
To get a glimpse of Allen’s mind-set, he says his favorite NFL running back is Jerome Bettis, and his second-favorite is Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch.
“I love the way he runs,” Allen said. “He has a will that can’t be stopped. He runs with a purpose as a downhill back.”
Allen, however, does not share Lynch’s distaste for public speaking.
“Nope,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t have a problem talking to the media.”
That response jibed with the overall energy of a player who seems to love football and is eager to keep proving doubters wrong.
“Being on any team is a blessing,” Allen said. “I don’t really care where I go as long as I get an opportunity.”
Inside the 2015 NFL Draft: running backs
From April 19 until the draft begins Thursday, The Star will take a daily look at each position.
▪ What the Chiefs look for: The perfect back for the West Coast system can do everything — run, block and catch. You’re looking for vision, explosiveness and the ability to make the first guy miss in space. Ball security is also important.
▪ Chiefs’ needs: Jamaal Charles is the undisputed No. 1 back, and if he is truly healthy, he remains one of the premier backs in the league. He turns 29 in December, however, so it would be smart to line up a long-term replacement. Knile Davis, a third-round pick in 2013, could be the guy, but he needs to continue to work on his pass protection and vision. Cyrus Gray is coming off a season-ending injury but is a valuable special-teams player. Charcandrick West is an intriguing developmental back who spent last year learning on the scout team. Spencer Ware is another developmental back with size and power.
▪ Sleeper: Akeem Hunt of Purdue is a sleeper seventh-round pick or priority free agent who offers versatility as a runner, receiver and returner. The speedy 5-10, 183-pound back tested well at his Pro Day and could be an interesting weapon in a West Coast scheme.