Will Early Season Mark Allen's Return?

The Penn State Class of 2014 commit is rehabbing from an ACL injury. Check out his game plan for getting back on the field during his senior campaign.

Coming back from an ACL injury is a difficult process. Sometimes full recovery takes a year or longer. Or, in the case of DeMatha High (Hyattsville, Md.) running back Mark Allen, it just might take less time.

The first Penn State Class of 2014 commit, the senior-to-be running back was recently cleared to begin running and doing light competition work again, a checkmark on the list of scheduled milestones before full-bore playing can begin again. Allen tore his right ACL six weeks into the 2012 season, and after having surgery shortly afterward, he has been rehabbing ever since.

Doctors are still advising the 5-foot-8, 185-pound back to wait a full year before returning to full contact, but his current timeline would leave his football absence at just nine months.

The progress he makes between now and the time camp rolls around in August will help determine exactly when he starts hitting again. Light running Sunday through Thursday has helped him move further down the long road toward regaining his full leg strength. He plans to “choke it down” over the next few weeks to build up his muscle strength before running all out again.

“It's getting close, but it's not there yet,” Allen explained. “I'm just got to keep working, and as soon as I see the light at the end of the tunnel and can get going, I'll be happy.

“Penn State told me to keep my head up, and everything happened for a reason. They also said not to rush into it, and I don't feel pressure to play my senior year because I already have my school locked up.”

That confidence in not losing his spot comes directly from Lions' head coach Bill O'Brien. Allen said O'Brien told him that “even if I never play a down of football in my life, I'd still have my scholarship, and be on their injury program or whatever.”

He's been on a strict upper body lifting program since surgery, one that has jumped his bench press from a max of 255 to 315 and a hang clean of 265 at max and four sets at 255 four times. His squat reps and weight will also grow as well, he believes, once he can fully use his legs.

The bench press weight, he said, would be even better if not for the injury. He believes that sans injury, he would be around 325 on the bench, and also have his 40-time down in the 4.3 range. It set him back, he said, and that's something he'll always be upset about. But, he knows he also has to charge on with the process to get back onto the field.

“I hope to be back by the fourth game of the season. I know we play on ESPN before that, and I want to play, but there is no need to rush it,” he explained. “I have no need to impress any other college coaches, and Penn State is telling me not to rush.

“That will be our first game in conference, and I expect I'll be on the field for that.”

The tailback recently visited University Park for the Lions' summer barbeque June 26, and he accomplished his goals of attempting to add prospects to fill out the rest of State's class and getting to know the rest of the 2014 commits.

He already knows Wise High (Upper Marlboro, Md.) defensive back Marcus Allen. “Double trouble Allens,” he said with a laugh when asked about the chemistry between he and his future teammate. The two met in 10th grade, and Mark Allen said he and Marcus became really close once the two both decided that they would listen to Penn State, who was courting both at the time.

That Wednesday, though, he also got to know Middletown (Del.) High receiver Chris Godwin, quarterbacks Christian Hackenberg (who is now enrolled at PSU) and Michael O'Connor, and linebacker Troy Reeder, among others. He also chatted with uncommitted Mount Lebanon (Pittsburgh, Pa.) offensive tackle Alex Bookser, who State desires with one of its remaining spots.

When asked about Reeder, Mark Allen said “he's a real big guy, and it was great to meet him.” He called the rest of the commits and current team members “cool,” and added he was able to learn a lot about them during “little games with friendly competition” during the cookout.

When asked later about his conversation with Bookser, Allen explained that his position makes trying to get Bookser on board all the more worth it.

“Since Marcus came on board, he's been helping me out with recruiting guys, and he helped to get Troy Vincent Jr.,” Mark Allen said about the recent commitment from the Gilman School (Baltimore, Md.) cornerback. “We are all just trying to recruit more players, and with Alex being a big tackle, it means a lot to me. Being a lineman, I just tried to be myself and show him a lot of love. He was real cool.

“The 2014 class is definitely starting to get that relationship like the 2013 class had,” Mark Allen continued. “But guys like Brandon Bell and Christian Hackenberg are tight with us, and we are gathering a brotherhood with guys like Richie [Anderson], Jordan [Smith] and all those guys.”

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