Allen embraces new role as fullback



Moncell Allen had limited options entering his senior year. UK head coach Joker Phillips gave him the choice of only two stances.

One involved standing on the sideline with his helmet held under his arms. The other involved bent knees and eyes scanning a defensive front through the slit in his facemask waiting to strike.

Allen opted for the latter stance this offseason as he completed a switch from tailback to fullback, much to the liking of Phillips, who saw signs in the season opener against Louisville that Allen can fit the mold of the prototypical fullback like former Cat and current New York Jet John Conner did in his UK career.

“It helps that (Allen) had success (against the Cardinals),” Phillips said. “Everybody saw it. The world saw him; The world saw him mowing people down and I think that helps convince himself it’s not a bad gig after all.”

After carrying the ball 96 times for 469 yards in his first three seasons at UK, Allen was initially reluctant to make a change to fullback, a selfless position that often goes unrecognized.

Not only did Allen have to switch positions, but he had the responsibility of replacing Conner, a fifth-round draft choice likely to see playing time with the Jets and one of the most prolific blockers in college football last season.

“I didn’t really like (playing fullback) in the beginning,” Allen said. “But at the same time, it’s something I had to do to make this team better.”

The team was certainly helped by Allen’s play in the season opener, which included  springing blocks for tailbacks Derrick Locke and Donald Russell, and junior wide receiver Randall Cobb.

UK finished the game with 230 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns, and though Allen said he was pleased with the running game, he added that it felt strange to get his first taste of action at his new position.

“It was kind of different for me because I’m not used to blocking defensive ends,” Allen said. “One of the plays I had to block one of the ends I just said ‘Man, I’m just going to go up in there and knock him and I don’t care what happens,’ and I went in there and he was just shocked that one of the tailbacks came out of the backfield and hit him like that.”

The Cats have become accustomed to the fearless play of their fullback.

“Whatever you need a fullback to do, just look at John Conner,” Russell said. “You can’t be scared to go in there and put a hat on a guy, and that’s what Moncell does…He goes in there hits the defender and the defender falls down.”

Russell joked that the only difference he noticed running behind Allen instead of Conner on game day was his ability to see over the compact, 5-foot-7 Allen, who hopes to make it to the NFL with the same skill set his predecessor shared.

“Of course I can do the same things that (Conner) did,” Allen said. “When I look at old tapes of John, I’m doing the same things he was doing when he was here.”

Phillips knew that Allen was capable of emulating Conner’s play, but it was just a matter of getting him to embrace his new role.

“The reason that John Conner was rated as the No. 1 fullback coming out is because he knew what he was,” Phillips said. “The fullbacks across the country, they’ve still got this tailback mentality. John Conner knew he was a fullback. We convinced Moncell he’s a fullback.”