Allen, Wales expecting more carries out of backfield this season

Running back Leon Allen (33) during the second half of WKU’s 44-28 victory over Georgia State Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga.

Kyle Williams

During his first two years on the Hill, junior running back Leon Allen has been the No. 2 option behind potential NFL draft choice and WKU single-season rushing leader Antonio Andrews.

However, Allen will finally get the chance to step into the spotlight this season and according to him, he’s working to make the best of it.

“I’m doing a little extra as to work after practice,” Allen said. “I’ve been running after practice. I come in on Saturdays and do a little extra when everybody’s in bed asleep because I know I have big shoes to fill. Antonio was a great back.”

Despite his No. 2 status, the six-foot, 235 pound back has recorded 674 rushing yards and seven touchdowns during his two seasons at WKU, which includes a 10-carry, 92-yard performance in WKU’s 35-26 victory over Kentucky in the 2013 season opener.

Allen will be under the tutelage of first-year running backs coach Greg Nord, who has over 20 years of coaching experience in the state of Kentucky. Nord’s last coaching position was in the 2011-12 season as the tight ends and special teams coach at Kentucky.

Nord said he assumes Allen will take major strides this season in order to replace a WKU great.

“Any time you’re trying to replace NFL backs and draft choice backs, then they’re big shoes to fill,” Nord said. “Certainly I would expect him to be able to fill those and we’re working to try to get him to be that kind of back.”

The Toppers aren’t very deep at the running back position due to the departure of both Andrews and Keshawn Simpson, which means rarely used players such as redshirt sophomore running back Anthony “Ace” Wales will be called upon.

Wales recorded 112 rushing yards and two touchdowns in his redshirt freshman season.

“Ace has very good speed,” Nord said. “He’s good on the perimeter, he has pretty good hands. He’ll be a threat in the passing game. He has to continue to work on being physical…he’s very capable of doing it.”

With Allen being the primary option at running back, Wales said he is willing to do anything he can to help the team, which includes using his speed to belt out long runs.

“Really, just give the Tops that player to spring out big plays,” Wales said. “But I would do anything coach needs me to do with special teams or even with offense just to help the team out.”