ATLANTA — Anthony Allen’s playing philosophy sounds so simple that, somewhere in America, an overweight, out-of-shape former fullback might think he too can play football again and employ Allen’s big transition without a hitch.
“It’s just basically getting the ball and running with it,” the Georgia Tech senior said, grinning. “It’s a pretty easy job when you’ve been playing running back all your life.”
OK, maybe it won’t be quite that effortless.
Moving this spring from the edge-running, blocking-rich A-back position to the more physical, inside-rushing game of B-back, Allen has begun the process of making a key switch in the Yellow Jackets’ spread option scheme as practices begin this week. It is a change that he is more than confident he will be able to make with a level of ease when play resumes this fall.
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“The only difference is that the B-back gets the ball more,” Allen said. “I really wouldn’t mind playing any position on the field as long as it helps the team out.”
While Allen approaches the move back — after transferring from Louisville two years ago, he briefly began his Georgia Tech career practicing at B-back — with a carefree attitude, his coaches are equally optimistic and appear to be welcoming it with open arms.
“Anthony’s a hard-nose, straight-ahead runner; he’s tough,” Yellow Jackets B-backs coach Brian Bohannon said. “To be at that position you’ve got to be tough because there are some hard yards there. Obviously he’s got the ability to do some things on the perimeter; we’ve seen that at A-back. But he’s going to be more of a tough guy who’s going to be able to get some hard yards, and he’s going to break some long runs.”
At A-back last season, Allen was among the Yellow Jackets’ most prolific long-yardage runners. Picking up seven carries of 20 yards or more, he proved to be a difference-maker on the outside edge, helping set up Yellow Jackets red zone and goal line scores.
Georgia Tech’s third-leading rusher behind the 1,000-yard tandem of Jonathan Dwyer and Josh Nesbitt, Allen finished with 618 yards on just 64 carries. With six touchdowns, he averaged 9.7 yards a rush.
“We were just trying to get the best 11 on the field last year,” Bohannon said of Allen at A-back. “(B-back) that’s probably, to me, more of a natural position for him than when he was playing the slot; we’ll see.”
As far as the actual transition itself is concerned, there are only small, technical details Bohannon wants Allen to focus on. Chief among them, Bohannon said Allen needs to watch “his pad level, understand where he’s supposed to run and where his blocks are coming from.”
They may sound like minor differences, but after being flanked a step or two behind the offensive line for a full season, his line of sight and pad level at the instant of handoff will be slightly altered at B-back.
“Oh yeah, it’s definitely an adjustment because I’m getting the ball on the inside now, where as before I was getting the ball on the perimeter. There are a lot of quick reads I have to make,” Allen said.
Before Dwyer — the ACC’s 2008 player of the year — left the Yellow Jackets in January to start his professional career a year early, he spoke with Allen about some of nuances of the B-back position, according to Allen. The potential new starter also communicated with Johnson and starting quarterback Josh Nesbitt about getting used to fielding handoffs instead of outside pitches.
“Obviously, ball security is a big deal; he’s running between the tackles a lot more now,” Bohannon said. “So those things are important, and so is getting on the same page with the quarterback so we don’t have miscues.”
Johnson last week said the starting B-back position had not been determined, and that Allen may not even be the starter when camp breaks in September. Taking snaps with the first string this week, however, he is the clear favorite.
“It’s not like it’s ‘You’re the anointed one, here you go, partner,’ ” Johnson said. “There’s going to be some competition there, too.”