Allen leaves uncertain legacy behind

With his college career seemingly at its end, it is difficult to reconcile California wide receiver Keenan Allen's production, the lack of wins, and the potential for so much more.

BERKELEY, Calif. – If this is truly how Keenan Allen's time at California is to end, hurt on an onside kick trailing by 22 points in the crisp Salt Lake City night with nearly no one watching apart from those inside Rice-Eccles Stadium, it would be only fitting. After all, an uncertain college legacy deserves a curtain call as clear as mud.

Make no mistake, Allen leaves the Golden Bears – assuming he bypasses his senior season to enter the NFL draft, as expected – as the career leader in receptions. He did so in just 33 career games. He ranks among the top 10 in numerous other categories.

But it could have been so much greater. And it failed to take Cal to any sort of success, which is why Allen's fate is ultimately so unsettled.

Allen arrived on campus as perhaps the signature signing of head coach Jeff Tedford, or at worst a half step behind DeSean Jackson's commitment in the Class of 2005. As Scout's top-ranked safety, Allen had rescinded his prior pledge to Nick Saban and Alabama, choosing Cal over the Crimson Tide and Clemson.

On athleticism alone, he ranks among the best ever to play in Memorial Stadium, with as complete a skill set as anyone could ask for. Allen has the hands to catch any pass, the speed to run past any defender, the leaping ability to pluck the ball from the highest point, the physicality to break tackles and maneuver through traffic.

However, it never translated into a signature win, that one moment where his talents pushed Cal over the top. Allen's three seasons will come and go without a win over rival Stanford or USC. His only bowl game was a dud, and reaching a second would mean stunning Oregon and Oregon State, marquee victories without Allen in the lineup.

Three of Allen's four best statistical performances came in losses, the other a romp over hapless Washington State this season.

At the same time, Allen was saddled with quarterback play that rarely rose above mediocrity, working with Kevin Riley, Brock Mansion, and his half-brother Zach Maynard. From 2010 to now, the Cal quarterbacks have a completion percentage of 57.09 and thrown for 45 touchdowns against 32 interceptions.

Allen had 34.22 percent of Cal's receptions in that span, 34.91 percent of the receiving yards, 37.77 percent of the touchdown receptions.

Imagine if he was pared with Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley, Aaron Rodgers, or even a healthy Nate Longshore, whose competence took Cal to a share of the Pac-10 title in 2006, what kind of numbers Allen could have produced.

And perhaps that is Allen's lot, torpedoed by bad luck, bad timing, and bad circumstances at Cal.

So that leaves one obvious parallel for Allen's time playing on Saturdays. Calvin Johnson at Georgia Tech, right down to the unparalleled physical tools and lousy signal-callers, right? Except that Johnson delivered huge numbers in bowl victories and upset wins before his dominant professional career. Even his final two games, losses in the ACC championship game and Gator Bowl, saw him top 100 yards receiving in each.

Allen's final three games will almost certainly be spent wearing sweats, standing on the sideline watching his teammates play out the string.

Not the ending Allen could have imagined, nor the parting image he would have chosen.

Dan Greenspan is the publisher of Cal Sports Digest and writes about the Pac-12 for Fox Sports Next. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan


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