LOS ANGELES -- In a spring marked by an air of competition and opportunity, it’s been an eventful two weeks for a number of Trojans football players looking to make an impact for the first time, but perhaps none more than the running back they call “Buck” -- Javorius Allen.
Buried on the depth chart for the last two years after making the trek across the country from powerhouse Tallahassee (Fla.) Lincoln in 2011, the redshirt sophomore has looked like a completely different player at times this March, something he attributes primarily to the fact that he finally has a firm grasp of the offense for the first time after rededicating himself in the offseason.
“It’s really just confidence and understanding the playbook,” Allen said. “I feel like once you get in the playbook, you get more confidence, and once you do that, you’re going to do it full speed. So that’s a big reason. And then, just having the offensive line -- they’re doing a good job. And the whole offense is just sticking together as a team.”
Having amassed a total of just 32 rushing yards on six carries in his first two years on campus, the first signs of a new-and-improved Allen came during the team’s winter passing sessions when -- with a more chiseled 6-foot-1 and 215-pound frame and a new burst to his step -- he was one of the standouts. That doesn’t always translate over to performance in full pads, but it has in Allen's case.
That was never more apparent than in the team’s scrimmage this past Saturday when he rushed the ball 11 times for a team-leading 65 yards and one touchdown. More than the statistics, though, it was the way that he did it that impressed those in attendance. Showcasing a fundamentally sound north-south running style with a focus on being physical and quick to the hole, he filled in nicely in a featured role with Silas Redd, Tre Madden and Justin Davis all held out of action.
“With learning the plays comes confidence and playing with speed in hitting holes,” Allen said. “I have to look like a 215-pound back, so tip-toeing through the hole won’t work. That’s why I try to hit it as fast as I can -- keep my shoulders low and just get as many yards as I can ... just be a power back, really.”
Aiding in his development this spring has been new running backs coach Tommie Robinson. Robinson not only has helped Allen reach new heights on the field, but the Alabama native is also someone that has helped him feel more at home living on the West Coast.
“Coach Robinson is a great coach,” Allen said. “He’s from the South so we have a good connection. All of the slang he uses, I’m from the South so I can relate to it all. It’s really good having that connection. All of the running backs like him, and he’s here to push us and to just make us better.”
With Redd -- the likely starter at tailback for USC in 2013 -- out for the remainder of the spring after suffering a torn meniscus in his knee, there figures to be an even greater opportunity over the next few weeks for Allen to make a case for a potential spot in the running back rotation next season. Refusing to get caught up in the moment, he’s focused instead on just working to become a better player one day and one practice at a time.
“Right now I’m not even thinking about it,” Allen said. “I’m just thinking about getting through the spring, doing the best that I can, trying to stay healthy and doing what’s right. I’m out here to compete, but I just want to come out here and make myself better, really ... make the other players better, make the whole team better. Whatever they need me to do, I’m going to do it no matter what it is.”