BOWLING GREEN, Kentucky — Western Kentucky senior Leon Allen is the latest ball carrier to emerge from what quarterback Brandon Doughty calls that the Hilltoppers' "stable of backs."
Allen enters his second season as WKU's featured back after leading Conference USA with 2,018 yards from scrimmage — a total that ranked seventh nationally. He had 1,542 yards rushing to complement Doughty's 4,830 yards passing, making the Hilltoppers the first FBS team with a 4,500-yard passer and 1,500-yard runner.
And Allen is ready for a follow-up as WKU is favored to win C-USA's East Division.
"I'm trying to work off everything I did last season," Allen said Saturday at WKU's media day. "Last season was just like a set mark; I am going to make strides and do better."
As it is, Allen has done well to follow the rushing success of WKU predecessors, Bobby Rainey, now with the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and multiple threat Antonio Andrews (Tennessee Titans). He carried 272 times last season — 200 more than 2013 — and averaged 5.7 yards per carry.
Doughty goes as far as declaring Allen the best of the bunch.
"Leon is a heck of a back, man. He is one of a kind," Doughty said. "We have had a stable of backs here. The past three backs that have been here, and I have been quoted as saying and got in a little bit of trouble for it . that Leon is the most talented overall out of those three guys."
Allen's goals are surpassing his yardage and carries totals from last season, along with things that don't show on a stat sheet.
"Winning is the most important thing," he said. "Stats will come when you win. We don't think about that. We look at winning one game at a time and I think we are going to be able to do that."
However, the senior's performance last season was overshadowed by the nation's top-ranked passing offense in 2014. Coach Jeff Brohm looks to change that this season.
"We had a good year numbers-wise," Brohm said. "(This season) we have to score points and we have to be efficient. We have to be good at running the ball in obvious running situations — third and short, fourth and short."
Brohm said he hopes that Doughty doesn't have to duplicate last year's stats for WKU to succeed as it seeks another bowl bid and a league title. Doughty understands that for the offense to succeed as designed, Allen has to play a very big role and believes he's more than capable.
The numbers prove it.
"Our offense is very reliant on him," Doughty said. "We're just looking at him to stay healthy, burst out of the backfield like he always does, run hard, finish downhill. Leon gives you all those things."