Going into the 2021 season, Braelon Allen wasn’t even a thought in the Wisconsin Badgers backfield. Allen wasn’t even supposed to be on the team as he was recruited as a defensive back in the 2022 class. Upon graduating early, he was able to reclassify to 2021 and enroll. When he arrived, the Badgers switched him to running back. Allen was also figuring to probably redshirt because Wisconsin also brought in Chez Mellusi from Clemson, Jalen Berger and Isaac Guerendo returned as well. The Badgers had also brought Loyal Crawford and Antwan Roberts from recruiting and had numerous other returners as well.
Instead things didn’t go as planned for the Badgers. Jalen Berger, Loyal Crawford and Antwan Roberts were all dismissed from the program and Isaac Guerendo got injured. This forced the Badgers to do a runner by committee approach to begin the year. Allen wouldn’t see significant time until week four against Illinois. Against the Illini, the 17-year-old freshman rushed for a then career high 131 yards rushing on 18 carries and a touchdown. Little did Badger fans know; this was the beginning of something amazing.
Since having his role expanded, Allen has rushed for over 100 yards in six straight games and has scored a touchdown in five of them. His six straight 100-yard games are the most by a freshman since Anthony Davis. Despite being a little hurt and losing his backfield mate, Chez Mellusi for the season; Allen proved he could handle the workload. Allen gashed the Wildcats defense for 173 yards rushing and scored three touchdowns in the game; all career highs. Allen has garnered Big Ten freshman of the week honors twice. He also most recently picked up his first Big Ten Player of the Week award for his performance against Northwestern. Allen has been a big reason why the Badgers have turned their season around.
After receiving just 12 carries in four games, Allen has 834 yards rushing and is averaging 7.1 yards a carry with nine touchdowns. What’s most impressive is two of the opponents Allen has gashed were in the top 20 in rush defense nationally. More importantly Allen has revitalized an offense that was dismal the first month of the season. I believe Graham Mertz and the passing game has been a big beneficiary of Allen’s breakout. The Badgers have also been outscoring opponents by 28 points during this stretch. If Allen keeps his pace, he’d be the first Badgers freshman to rush for 1000 yards since Jonathan Taylor in 2017.
At age 17, typically a division one football recruit would be competing in state playoff games not running over Big Ten opponents. At age 17, Allen has taken over the Badgers backfield and is the future of the position. Despite being the fourth string back early in the season; he has taken the Big Ten by storm with his meteoric breakout. He’s been so impressive, that his teammates have already started comparing him to legendary Badger, Jonathan Taylor. He has the potential to be a legendary Badger back like Ron Dayne, Jonathan Taylor, Melvin Gordon, Montee Ball and more. Allen faces another tough rushing defense in Nebraska this weekend; he’ll also have the opportunity to break Jonathan Taylor’s freshman of 100 yard games in a season. With all that’s in front of him; Allen is proving that nothing is impossible even at 17 years old.