Madison, Wis. — Badgers star running back Braelon Allen has carried the Wisconsin football program’s offense in each of his first two seasons in Madison. But being a bell cow comes with its downfalls, too: you absorb a ton of extra hits along the way — hits that are bound to catch up with you eventually.
During Allen’s first two seasons at UW, 268 of his 416 career carries (64%) came against defenses with 8+ defenders in the box—the most of any Power Five running back the past two seasons.
Despite the stacked boxes, Allen turned 416 carries into 2,510 yards rushing (6.0 YPC) and 23 touchdowns. Of that total, 1,500 yards came after contact — an average of 3.61 yards per carry coming after first contact, according to Pro Football Focus.
But the excess carries — and hits taken — led to some durability issues that forced him to either miss time — or play with physical limitations late in the season, which is why Luke Fickell and his coaching staff plan to keep the tread off Allen’s tires.
Wisconsin Football Will Manage Braelon Allen’s Workload at RB.
Luke Fickell spoke at Big Ten Media Days about a myriad of topics, including his back-to-back All-Big Ten second-team running back, Braelon Allen, and that workload mentioned above.
Coach Fickell envisions Allen averaging 18 carries and 140 yards per contest for the Badgers.
“If that’s the case, at the end of the year, we’re going to have the best version of Braelon that we need,” Fickell said. “If you carry it through by the end of the year, it does wear down. You can be 245 pounds like he is and be as physical as he is, and it still takes a toll. We all have to recognize that, and he has to be one that recognizes that as well.”
It’s been well documented that the Wisconsin football program is significantly changing its offensive scheme, with offensive coordinator Phil Longo installing an Air Raid, spread-focused passing attack.
But Longo’s offense is arguably the most prominent reason fans should be optimistic about the 6-foot-2, 238-pound RB heading into the season. Longo’s offense at UNC faced stacked boxes on only 148 rushing attempts over the past two seasons, the fourth-fewest among Power 5 programs.
The Fond du Lac, Wisconsin native has registered 53 runs of 10+ yards in his career — despite the extra attention in the box. Imagine what he could do with some room to operate.
“Heavy boxes definitely make it more difficult,” Allen said. “There are eight, nine guys in the box, and you only have five or six blockers. You usually have to make two or more guys miss tackles every time. That gets hard to do in the Big Ten. That’s why I’m very excited to play in Coach Longo’s offense. There will definitely be more lanes to run through.”
If Allen can adapt his running style to become more efficient on a per-carry basis instead of the chunk play tailback he’s been forced to be the last few seasons, UW will thrive on offense.
With the help of Phil Longo and his proven offensive scheme, an improved offensive line, and the potential to face fewer stacked boxes in the future, Braelon Allen is poised for a dominant junior season with the Badgers.
When you take a moment to consider the best interest of the Wisconsin football program and its goals — along with Allen likely being in his last season before entering the NFL draft — a lighter workload could be in the best interest of both parties.
“I’m going to have my best year regardless of how many people are in the box,” Allen told PFF.
All of these individual parts combined should help the junior running back take fewer hits and save some wear and tear on his body — which could play a role in keeping him healthy and helping lead the Badgers to Indianapolis to compete for a Big Ten Championship.
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