Wild thriving with two quality running backs
05/30/2014 12:50 PM
05/30/2014 12:51 PM
Junior Allen is probably one of the best running backs in the Champions Professional Indoor Football League. He just happens to be backing up another one of the best, Wild teammate Tywon Hubbard.
Allen is a special teams weapon, but teams are so intimidated by his speed that they rarely kick to him, so Hubbard has more return chances, too.
The 25-year-old is sixth on the Wild in receptions, too. He’s not the leader in any one facet of Wichita’s versatile offense, but he may be the most indispensable player because he fills so many roles.
“I’m actually excited that I get to do a little bit of everything,” Allen said. “I feel like that would be my role at any level if I want to continue to make my career longer. I feel like I can be a mismatch as a receiver running a route, I’m a mismatch running the ball, and on special teams I’m a mismatch because of my speed.
“I feel like I have the opportunities to take advantage of it at all three positions instead of one.”
If the 25-year-old Allen were to settle into any one position, it would probably be running back. After earning NAIA All-American status as a kick returner with Missouri Valley College in 2009, Allen transferred to Bethany, where he became one of NAIA’s most decorated tailbacks.
As a sophomore in 2010, Allen led the NAIA in rushing, following that up with a second season of more than 1,400 rushing yards while serving as an all-purpose threat. He played his final season at Faulkner and finished his collegiate career with nearly 4,000 rushing yards.
With the Wild, however, the 5-foot-7, 190-pound Allen serves as a change of pace behind Hubbard, who is second in the league in rushing after the same finish last season. Allen averages slightly more yards per carry – 4.2 to 4.0 – and gives Wichita the rare two-pronged attack at running back.
“A lot of teams do not have that luxury of having two running backs,” Allen said. “To be honest, when I came into training camp, that’s why I wanted to play for this team, because I knew I was playing with the best running back in this league. I feel like I’m such a competitor, why not play and learn from the best running back to help my game evolve to a whole new level?”
With 100 fewer carries than Hubbard, Allen’s best bet on any given night to impact the game is through special teams. Other teams know that, too, and often do their best to avoid him.
Allen has 11 kickoff returns for a 12.6-yard average. Playing on a short field makes it occasionally difficult to break long returns, but Allen’s contributions on special teams have helped him become Wichita’s second-most productive player according to all-purpose yards.
“They rotate me in practice and I try to give a great look as best as I can,” Allen said. “In a game, it’s spur of the moment. If Coach (Paco Martinez) needs me at receiver, I’ve got to be ready to remember all my routes, all the plays. If he needs me at running back, I’ve got to go in there and do what I can. I don’t think there’s a game plan, it’s, if my number is called, what are you going to do with it? And that’s what I love because I live with no fear.”