Penn State running back Mark Allen — who was No. 2 on the depth chart behind Miles Sanders — has suffered a season-ending injury, head coach James Franklin announced Tuesday afternoon.
Franklin did not offer specifics on Allen’s injury. However, the fifth-year senior addressed the media last Tuesday and appeared in good spirits. But he then did not travel to Friday night’s game against Illinois.
He told the Centre Daily Times on Sept. 15, however, how he wanted to be remembered when he left Happy Valley.
“I just want to be remembered as a guy who can lighten up anybody’s day,” he said after rushing for 62 yards and a touchdown against Kent State. “The coaches tell me that I have an infectious attitude, and I have a gift with that. So I try to positively affect people 24/7, whether that’s just cracking a joke, things like that.
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“I want people to remember Mark Allen as the guy who could literally light up a room, and as a hard-nosed guy. ... Being 5-6, I just want people to remember me as a soldier. I’m out there, I got a big heart, and I’m willing to do whatever.”
Allen is a fifth-year senior, so his college career is likely over. The 5-foot-6 back will finish with 88 career rushing attempts for 349 yards and four touchdowns; he also had 12 catches for 93 yards and two TDs.
“He’s in great spirits,” Franklin added. “Mark’s got a very bright future. He’s going to be successful in whatever he chooses to do.”
Franklin said Allen has given some thought to coaching. But that’s in the future. For now, Allen’s absence comes at an interesting time for the No. 9 Nittany Lions.
Although Allen didn’t play a large role in the offense early in his career, he played a significant role as a change-of-pace back in the first three weeks of the 2018 season. He averaged nine touches a game, compared to Ricky Slade’s five touches the first three weeks.
Without Allen, who could also catch and block, Slade will have to step up even more. The true freshman running back has already shown flashes on the ground — 247 Sports did rank him as the top recruit at his position, after all — but he has yet to make a catch this season. He’s still learning the offense.
“It’s consistency,” Franklin said, when asked what he’d like to see from Slade. “You got a young player and he’s obviously shown flashes and really good things. But it’s just consistency.”
If Sanders needs a breather, Penn State doesn’t have a lot of other options. Outside of Sanders and Slade, there are just two other scholarship running backs who are eligible this season. (C.J. Holmes has to sit out a season after transferring from Notre Dame.) Fifth-year senior Johnathan Thomas has three carries this season and didn’t have any carries in the two seasons prior, and redshirt freshman Journey Brown has two rushing attempts this year.
Allen acted as a nice bridge until Slade was ready. But it’s time for Slade to step up now — and for fans to appreciate what Allen brought to the program.