HIGHLAND PARK, Texas — Southern Methodist University may have received an intriguing gift after Texas state champion Conner Allen verbally committed to become a Mustang.
“Today is a special day and without the favor of God it could have never happened…Thanks to Coach [Chad] Morris and Coach [Sonny] Dykes for believing in a guy most coaches told was too small to play at the next level,” stated Allen, who transferred to Highland Park from the Austin School of Regents, in a Thursday morning Twitter post.
Morris, who coached near Allen’s former school at Lake Travis High School in 2008 and with the Mustangs between 2015 and 2017, accepted the head coaching position at the University of Arkansas on Dec. 6. Dykes, a Lubbock native, accepted SMU’s vacant position five days later.
Both saw the value of Highland Park’s rugged all-purpose back.
Despite his 5-foot-8 and slight 175-pound frame, Allen was one of the most effective weapons in the Scot offense last season — as both a running back and receiver. Of the 977 total yards he gained between Sept. 1 and Dec. 22, 673 were on the ground and 304 were courtesy air mail from Arkansas offer John Stephen Jones.
He also scored 12 touchdowns rushing and five receiving while paired with Paxton Alexander, another bruising component of Highland Park’s offense. The near 6-foot University of Michigan lacrosse signee’s view about his backfield partner was simple and straightforward yet powerful and elegant.
“If there was no Conner Allen, there may not have been a state championship. He’s a crazy hard worker. He’s smart and tough. He’s the guy who added that change of pace to our team. He’s a glue guy every team needs,” Alexander said plainly, as if he were stating a fact the whole world knew. “It’s like that with all of us. We are all pieces to a machine that make everything work. Without any one of us, the whole system fails.”
He added he believes his brother and friend will make an impact sooner rather than later.
Allen will still have to make the decision permanent on the Feb. 7 National Signing Day via National Letter of Intent to make the commitment stick. When and if he does make the 1.5-mile jog from the front steps of Highland Park High School to the center of SMU’s Dallas campus, he will face an obstacle different than the boys he hurdled for extra yardage.
He will hedge a bet on himself as a preferred walk-on rather than as a scholarship recipient.
“It started with Coach Morris early in the playoffs when he told me he wanted me as a preferred walk on. He didn’t go back on it and offered the same opportunity at Arkansas,” Allen piped, chuckling and flashing toothy grin trademark customary to all that know one of the school’s most likable personalities. “I didn’t know what to do about the offer since my family’s got a pretty big legacy at SMU. My grandfather and coach, Randy Allen, was a running back with them when they were in the Southwestern Conference. I felt SMU was the right place for me. I fell in love with it.”
He follows recent signees like Angleton running back TaMerik Williams and Odessa Permian outside linebacker Preston Ellison and other “hard” commits like Brownwood cornerback Marcus Mosley and Friendswood tight end Ben Redding. Ellison, Mosley, and Williams are rated at three stars and Redding has two.
Allen isn’t rated by 247Sports, ESPN 300, or Yahoo Rivals.
Because of the high-powered offense run by Highland Park and the similarities in it and his possible future destination, however, he may be the most intriguing. Under Dykes’ guidance while the University of California head coach, former Prosper quarterback Davis Webb led the FBS in passing yards.
The Golden Bears’ third- and fourth-leading receivers — Melquise Stovall and Vincent “Bug” Rivera — are 5-foot-9 or smaller. They also combined for 801 of Cal’s 4,306 receiving yards behind Chad Hansen (1,249) and Demetrius Robinson (767). The duo was also two of seven receivers with multiple TDs.
If you’re wondering, nearly 20 percent of the yardage was produced by two “smallish” players with Allen’s frame among 19 athletes that had at least one reception.
“Coach Dykes also coached Wes Welker when he was [Texas] Tech,” Allen said. “Those players aren’t the best players on the field but they’re heady and smart. They know the weaknesses in defenses and how to exploit them. Those types of players are important, especially on third down. I think I’m fast but there are other players that will be able to stretch the field vertically better than me. Teams need players that can mismatch against linebackers and are willing to do dirty work in the middle of the field.”
He said he’s following in the footsteps of 5-foot-10 Will Hastings, who played as a high school receiver in Little Rock, Arkansas and walked onto Auburn as a kicker. Hastings, if you remember, gained 117 yards on six receptions against the University of Central Florida in the Peach Bowl. That included his 26-yard TD grab.
According to Allen, Dykes has him slated to play slot receiver — not running back like he did at the Austin School of Regents and Highland Park.
Despite not playing slot receiver in high school, Allen has been preparing for it for more than a year. Jaxon Shipley, a former Arizona Cardinal and Texas Longhorn wide receiver, has been training with Allen since October 2016.
Marcus Matthews-Marion is the managing editor of TexasHSFootball, covering prep football throughout the Lone Star State and collegiate and professional football throughout the country. Follow him on Twitter, @TheMJMatthews, and read more of his content here.
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