How He Got Here
Marcus Allen exploded onto the scene last year as a true freshman. After the unfortunate injury to starter Ryan Keiser, Allen took over the starting job going into the Ohio State game. Typically, a freshman safety making his first start against the eventual National Champions would be a situation that many would expect to go awry for Penn State. Instead, it was an introduction of his ability to the college football world.
Allen would rack up 11 tackles (seven solo) in that one, to jumpstart him on his way to 58 on the season. Thanks to the center field-patrolling abilities of Adrian Amos, Allen wasn't responsible for many man coverage assignments. Instead, he focused on shutting down the run game and providing a physical presence across the middle of the field. In fact, earlier this offseason, his style of play led to Bob Shoop comparing Allen to Seattle Seahawks' strong safety and his new pseudo-mentor, Kam Chancellor.
Allen's brutal and tenacious style of play gave Penn State's defense a more nasty feel to it. As if going up against the Nittany Lions wasn't tough enough due to their ability to shut down offenses, teams also started needing to watching for the enforcer in the secondary.
What to Expect in 2015
A whole lot more of what you saw in 2014, just better. Allen will be paired with a new partner in crime at the safety position in Jordan Lucas, who surely won't be quite as good as Amos was, but has the athleticism to play a very similar style game. Thanks to Lucas' experience at cornerback and developed pass coverage ability, Allen will once again be free to focus on stopping the run.
One of the places where Allen showed an advance knowledge of the game last season, was not overrunning the plays in front of him. He hit the hole hard and trusted that his defense would funnel the runner into him. That's what he needs to continue to do this season to stay successful.
He still plays at about 150 miles and hour, which at this stage is a blessing and a curse. It's that style that allows him to follow the play all over the field and always be ready to make a big hit, but it also will lead to experienced quarterbacks, like Michigan State's Connor Cook, to use lots of play action and head fakes to tire him out. As he continues to gain experience, his routes to the football will improve and allow him to slow his play down a little bit. He might not reach that point in 2015, but he'll definitely be on the right track.
All in all, you should expect a wrecking ball that runs faster than most players on the field. And that is downright terrifying for opponents.
How the Top 10 Players Were Selected
For those of you curious, the top ten players were selected by a staff vote. Each staff member ranked the top 10 players, with a number one vote counting as 10 points, a number two vote counting for nine points, and so on. A full list of the rankings, including those who received votes but were not included in the top 10, will be published with the reveal of Penn State’s top player on Friday, Sept. 4.
The Rest of the Top Ten to Date