Calling A.J. Allen a fallback option is disrespectful to the Class 4A All-State running back. But with the way Allen has been so easily overlooked before, during and after the season in terms of recruiting, it might actually serve as an upgrade.
To get the full picture, you must first look at LSU's 2022 recruiting class, and more specifically, the top running back target.
The latest word on the street is that Frank Wilson and company have turned up the heat on Lake Charles College Prep running back TreVonte’ Citizen. You're probably mumbling to yourself, “Oh yeah, who hasn’t?”
After all, Citizen is a 4-star running back with offers from a who’s who of college football. The difference is, though, things are looking more positive for LSU landing Citizen than it did a week or two ago. For now, it seems as though LSU is putting most of their eggs in the Citizen basket. And that's a good basket to invest in if you've seen his highlights.
But this is the recruiting game. We’ve seen projections go awry at the last minute all the time, so none of us would be shocked if a highly sought after prospect like Citizen chose to go out of state.
Well, might I offer LSU a consolation prize? He’s in your backyard, and he’s one of the most dynamic running backs to come out of Northeast Louisiana in years.
But don’t just take my word for it… Allen’s legend grew over the course of the season with the way he performed against legendary coaches.
One of those coaches lives right across the river. And he's practically seen 'em all when it comes to legendary running backs. West Monroe head coach Jerry Arledge has faced a who’s who of high school running backs (Michael Ford, Joe McKnight, Cedric Benson, Cecil Collins, Jacob Hester, Kevin Faulk, etc.), and after Allen rushed for 259 yards against the Rebels, Arledge said after 28-7 Tiger victory that Neville had as fine a running back as he had ever seen.
Later in the year, I had a conversation with a prominent Power 5 running backs coach visiting a Neville football game, and he told me that once he saw a few clips of Allen’s performance against St. Thomas More, he knew he had to drive several miles to see Neville’s senior running back play. And quite frankly, he was stunned LSU hadn’t offered yet.
Speaking of that game, after Allen rushed for 360 yards against the Cougars, legendary head coach Jim Hightower, who has the second most wins in the history of LHSAA football, said, “He’s as good as I’ve ever seen.”
But I get it. This is high school, and great high school players don’t always equate to great college football players. Particular measurables are always a big factor, and some might look at Allen's 5’11”, 182-pound frame and wonder whether or not he can be an every down back in the SEC.
A back that special deserves a chance to add a little weight, if you ask me, especially after LSU got some help with Noah Cain last Thursday. What's the rush now that the Penn State transfer should be in line to get many carries for the Tigers next season?
Allen is one of the most gifted running backs I’ve ever covered at the high school level. From his vision to his lateral ability to his patience, there were times this year where he reminded me of a prime Le’Veon Bell when he was with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
He’s rated as a 3-star consensus, while some recruiting sites, such as 247 Sports, have him listed as a 4-star.
And while he’s garnered more offers as of late, the cupboard seems bare for one of the most talented running backs in the entire state. As of Friday, Allen’s list of offers were TCU, Mississippi State, Nebraska, New Mexico State, Southern Miss, Louisiana Tech and Southeastern, according to 247 Sports.
I’ve talked to some recruiting analysts in the state who think LSU could end up signing two running backs in this class, and that LSU’s coaching staff still has a few fans of Allen on it. Will he ultimately get the offer from the biggest college football program in the state? Only time will tell.
That won’t make or break his legacy, though. From being the most underrated player heading into the 2021 football season to becoming a Class 4A Offensive MVP finalist, Allen proved he was elite between the lines against stellar competition.
And those who got to see him play won’t soon forget the way he rushed for 2,134 yards and 31 touchdowns en route to earning District 2-4A MVP honors before claiming the Ouachita Citizen’s Offensive Player of the Year Award.
Far be for it for me to tell LSU which players they should and shouldn’t go after. All I know is Allen performed like one of the best running backs in the state this season. For a signing class that still needs to add one or maybe even two backs, Allen sure seems like a Tari Eason slam-dunk to yours truly.