Miami Hurricanes football’s best-kept secret: Ajay Allen

Redshirt freshman running back Ajay Allen runs with the ball during a Miami fall practice at the Greentree practice fields. Photo credit: Miami Athletics

In a running back room filled with big-time recruits and starting-quality players, a newcomer has emerged for the ‘Canes this fall.

Nebraska transfer Ajay Allen has already burst onto the scene in Coral Gables. The 5-foot-11, 182-pound speedster looks to bring a different style of running to a new offense at UM.

“I want to come here, compete every day and better myself and better the players around me,” Allen said to reporters.

Originally from Louisiana, Allen calls Miami a “dream school” and has shown he wants to make an immediate impact.

“I call myself a game-changer … When I get in space I do what I do best,” Allen said while also comparing himself to three-time All-American Jonathon Taylor.

The newest Miami tailback was known for his explosiveness at Nebraska. While a broken collarbone derailed most of his 2022 season, Allen averaged 5.8 yards per carry and had seven carries for 10 or more yards in the four games that he played

The Hurricanes will likely utilize that explosiveness in an offense that struggled to generate chunk plays last season. New Miami offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson was hired to increase the pace of the offense and open up the field more.

While Dawson was known for his air-raid style of offense at Houston, Allen has already shown flashes at running back with Dawson calling the shots. During Miami’s first fall scrimmage at CanesFest, Allen had a 44-yard run on the first play of the scrimmage and carried the ball four times for 10 or more yards, according to David Lake of Inside the U.

“I really love coach Dawson, he’s an upfront guy. I think I can excel in this offense and do great things,” Allen said.

Allen also noted that he ran a similar style of offense in high school.

As the 2023 Miami offense looks to develop a new identity, it has an improved roster from last season while also returning some familiar faces. Fourth-year junior Tyler Van Dyke is returning as the starting quarterback, returning receivers Colbie Young and Xavier Restrepo are primed for breakout seasons and the new-look offensive line projects to be one of the strongest units on the team.

With an improved offensive line, the passing and running games should benefit. If Van Dyke has more time to throw, the passing attack may be able to create more opportunities for the running backs.

“I want to come here, compete every day and better myself and better the players around me,” Allen said.

Allen’s mindset is something to keep note of. Even after a season-ending injury, Allen made sure to find the positive in his situation.

“It’s a minor setback for me. Just sit back and learn, learn from older guys and come back better than ever,” Allen said regarding his injury last season. “I just took that as a motivation and came back and competed.”

Allen possesses the ability, as well as the mentality to take his game to the next level. Top-end speed, high acceleration and receiving ability prime Allen to become an important player for the Hurricanes’ offense in 2023.