Running Back Mark Allen Impresses With Darren Sproles-Like Moves
Saquon Barkley sat out Saturday’s Blue-White Game, allowing the stable of running backs behind him on the depth chart to show what they can do. Redshirt sophomore Mark Allen took hold of the opportunity and ran with it, both literally and figuratively.
The Hyattsville, Md., native finished the annual spring scrimmage with 59 rushing yards on 14 carries, spending the majority of his time with the Blue squad, but he swapped jerseys and took a few handoffs with the White team as well. Allen was also Penn State’s primary weapon catching passes out of the backfield, as the diminutive 5-foot-6 ankle breaker hauled in a five receptions for 48 yards, making him the lone Nittany Lion skill player to eclipse the century mark for total yards with 107.
Allen saw a healthy dose of playing time as a redshirt freshman last fall, finding the end zone twice and contributing 142 total yards of offense, while also fielding five punts. His nimble footwork on the field conjures the image of Philadelphia Eagles all-purpose machine Darren Sproles, who also stands 5’6″.
“My favorite running back growing up was Darren Sproles, just because he’s my stature, he’s my build, and I see myself in him. I compare myself to him all the time. Everything he does, I need to do better,” Allen said.
Just like Sproles, Allen could see his role on special teams increase with a strong showing in preseason camp, but his top priority is fending off redshirt freshman Andre Robinson for the backup job behind Barkley. Robinson had himself a ballgame Saturday as well, highlighted by an outstanding 28-yard touchdown run, tip-toeing down the right sideline. Robinson went on to post 57 total yards (44 rushing) on the afternoon.
Allen’s size doesn’t limit him from mixing it up in the pass-blocking department, which will be a key component of Joe Moorhead’s new no-huddle offense that features plenty of run-pass options. The fact that Allen’s smaller frame creates leverage against opposing defenders can be seen as an advantage rather than a hindrance.
“I’m still blocking the same way [for a mobile quarterback], picking up my guys, just trying to keep them off the quarterback, but the mobility thing is a plus for me,” Allen said. “Say, if I get hit, Trace [McSorley] scrambles out and does what he has to do with his feet to keep the play going.”
The speed of the new offense should also help Allen continue to impress heading into summer ball. The versatile back does a lot of different things well for Penn State and has the chance to carve out a nice role for himself moving forward.
“That’s gonna get a lot of people, man. I can’t wait ’til we attack the Big Ten with this offense.”