Allen takes on new position in backfield



At first glance, it’s hard to imagine Moncell Allen ever played anywhere other than fullback.

His squatty 5-foot-7, 225-pound frame doesn’t lend itself to images of a playmaking tailback. But that’s where the senior-to-be has been cast mostly to this point in his career.

Now, with the departure of John Conner, Allen is moving within the backfield and will be lining up primarily at fullback after spending his first three years at UK as a contributor at tailback and on special teams.

Even though Conner, who worked his way from walk-on to NFL draft prospect, is now gone, the Cats aren’t expecting to miss a beat thanks to Allen’s transition.

“I don’t want anybody to get it twisted now, you can never replace John Conner,” senior-to-be tailback Derrick Locke said. “But Moncell is laying that hit. It’s not like we’re going to have a setback there.”

Conner established himself as one of the most feared hitters for UK in his career, and defensive players routinely cited him as the toughest offensive player to bring down in practices.

Allen has started to establish a similar reputation, lining up in short-yardage situations to gain first downs and touchdowns when the coaching staff doesn’t trust anyone else to pound the ball up the middle.

He’s also shown he can hit. His forced fumble on the opening kickoff of the second half during UK’s upset win at Georgia set up a touchdown that sparked the 34-27 comeback. Now that he’s shown the ability to make the change, he’ll just have to be comfortable with his new role.

“Right now I’m just trying to get used to it,” Allen said. “It’s pretty difficult because I used to be a running back, and running backs never get too much of a pounding from hitting and blocking.”

After the Music City Bowl, Allen began to hear rumblings among his fellow players that the coaches were considering moving him to fullback. He took it upon himself to talk to the coaching staff on the bus ride back to Lexington and tell them he’d be willing to make the move — with one caveat.

Allen didn’t just want to be a normal blocking fullback; he wanted to contribute to the offense in several different ways. In that way, Allen will be able to do some things even Conner could never do.

His background as a tailback in high school and for most of his college career gives Allen a level of versatility not found in most fullbacks. He wants to do it all; run, catch and block “even more than John Conner did.”

“That’s heaven for an offensive coordinator,” Allen said. “When they think of a guy at fullback, they think of a guy that just pounds and pounds all the time. But that’s not right because I can run, catch it out of the backfield and do a lot of different things that fullbacks can’t do. And I also can block. … They can always keep me in the game.”

For Allen to make the transition complete, Locke said he’ll still have to develop his blocking skills. The speedy Locke, who is expected to be the featured back behind Allen this fall, described his backfield mate as “a running back who can hit” at this point in his career.

In the end, though, Locke is sure Allen will make the move a smooth one.

“We know Moncell can do it,” Locke said. “He just has to get used to doing it. Having him, I’m not going to be timid in there. He’s going to bust some heads. Moncell’s going to shock the world and we’re going to do it. That’s not anything I’m worried about, to be honest.”