NittanyNation turned to one of the people who knows best what the 2014 PSU commit is capable of on the field -- Elijah Brooks, his high school coach at Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha -- and asked what separates Allen as a player, how he first noticed Allen's ability and when the player especially showcased his potential.
RB Mark Allen, Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha, 5-foot-7, 185 pounds
Brooks, on what separates Allen from others at his position: "Well, you know, all good backs have great instincts, and that's what Mark has -- the ability to find the hole and explode through it. And with his speed, once he gets to the next level, he can take it 80 yards for a touchdown every time he touches it. But I think the thing you can't measure on film is his ability to compete.
"He's one of the fiercest competitors I've been around. He just takes extreme pride in everything he does. I don't care if it's agility drills with his teammates, weight-room testing we do every six weeks, practices against the scout team -- no matter what it is, he competes at such a high level that many times we have to tell him to tone it down. I think that's what's going to help him be successful at the next level."
When he first knew Allen would be special: "Oh, I noticed Mark on a youth level. He won two or three Pop Warner championships, and some people had concerns then whether his talents would pan out on a college level. But I knew with the way he ran the football that he would be successful. He played varsity as a sophomore and ran for over 100 yards against Archbishop Carroll. So I knew.
"I was a running back. And that's not to say I can't recognize talent at other positions. But, when I see a running back, I have a good gauge as to how they're going to turn out. And it's all about their knack for the game, their ability to read holes, their ability to bounce off defenders and break tackles. And a lot of running backs either have it or they don't. And I could see on every level that Mark was going to make it."
When Allen surprised him or really showcased his ability: "Well, I won't say his sophomore year because it was still a growth curve he was going through. But his first game his junior year against Hillside, he ran an inside-zone play -- and the speed and quickness in which he hit it, he scored a touchdown about 40 yards out. He finished the game with 120-something yards and got MVP his first game his junior year. I knew then he turned a corner.
"You knew because the offense was better, and he was much more decisive with his cuts. He was a year stronger, a year faster, a year more physical. He was running through defenders, running past defenders, and it was just that additional year in the program that really helped. You could see it in his play. I definitely thought he had turned into a complete running back, where we motioned him out as a receiver. We put him back as a returner. And he wasn't able to do that as a sophomore because of his experience. But he showed early his junior year we could put him anywhere on the field, and he was going to be an impact player."