Note: This story appears in the Wednesday, Sept. 11 newspaper on Page A6.
O’Shaan Allison knows what most people think when they see him on the field as a running back.
“Bowling ball,” deadpans Allison, a stout 5-foot-9 and 205 pounds. “I am a little short, kind of stocky.
“But that’s where they get confused.”
Allison hopes to continue to educate the masses about what he’s capable of on Saturday night. Ohio (1-1) travels to Marshall (1-1) for a 6:30 p.m. kickoff inside Joan C. Edwards Stadium in Huntington.
“People see me, and they think I’m just like a bowling bowl guy that just runs straight,” continued Allison, a redshirt freshmen RB out of Malvern Prep — northwest of Philadelphia.
“I think I have good lateral movement. I can make people miss. I can catch out of the backfield. That’s what people don’t expect from me,” he said. “They think I’m just a running back with tunnel vision.
“But I have great vision.”
Ohio’s vision for the running back position was cloudy after last season, when fifth-year stalwarts A.J. Ouellette and Maleek Irons moved on. Offensive Coordinator/running backs coach Tim Albin had a set of options, but none had much experience.
With sophomore Julian Ross out of action, and junior college transfer De’Montre Tuggle not yet in Athens, and walk-ons Ja’Vahri Portis and Jake Neatherton besieged with injuries, spring camp became a showcase for Allison.
After those five weeks in March and April, Albin knew one thing: OU’s outlook at RB had to include Allison.
“He was just outstanding in the spring,” Albin said. “He was a workhorse. He took a ton of reps. He showed what he could do.
“He crushed it.”
Allison began fall camp at the top of the depth chart, and he hasn’t relented the spot yet. He’s started the first two games for Ohio and been the kind of steady mainstay in the backfield he showed in the spring. Allison leads the team with 20 rushing attempts and is tied for the team lead with 85 yards rushing.
Allison hasn’t found the end zone yet, but he’s busted big runs — including a 25-yarder — and showed off some of those pass-catching skills. He’s third on the roster with four catches for 41 yards, including a 34-yarder on a wheel route at Pitt on Saturday.
Ohio is far from declaring a new feature back, but Allison isn’t going anywhere either. With Ross out of action at the moment, Allison and Tuggle — averaging 12.1 yards per carry with three touchdowns — will get more work.
Allison understands he’ll be splitting carries. But he’s used to the long game. A fractured ankle as a junior in high school cost him a chance to fully explore the recruiting process. A basket full of potential offers seemingly disappeared overnight.
The Bobcats stuck with him, and he’s sticking with the RB competition for the long haul.
“I took my time here,” Allison said. “I’ve been patient. I had a few guys in front of me and I didn’t play very much at all.
“But I knew I’d be back. I knew this year I had to work hard and be ready. This team needs me, and needs all the backs, this year,” he added. “I’m ready to deliver.”
Ohio head coach Frank Solich hasn’t been disappointed with the RB-by-committee approach yet. Tuggle has flashed his game-breaking speed, and Allison has proven to be the best so far at running through contact.
“I like both those backs,” Solich said Monday. “De’Montre has great feet, is a breakaway kind of back, but still has toughness. O’Shaan, for a powerful guy that can get extra yards, he’s got good feet and is able to make people miss. There’s a good combination there.
“I love (Allison’s) toughness and what he’s all about in that, but he’s got really good quickness,” Solich added. “He’ll start piercing that together, when to use that quickness and when to use the power.”
Allison is now going on three years removed from the broken ankle that nearly derailed his career. But it’s easy to forget he’s got just 22 career carries as a Bobcat. He led the position in work done in the spring, and in fall camp, and until further notice he’ll be the first up in the RB rotation.
He’s earned that opportunity. And while Allison continues to show he’s more than a ‘bowling ball’ he still has plenty to learn as well. The season has started, but the RB competition will continue.
“Nothing is handed to you,” he said. “If you keep putting the work in, know your playbook and keep playing fast, smart and confident…that’s who’s going to play the most.
“I love it. I love the competition. I like all those guys, but we’re definitely pushing each other.”