Mark Story

Quarterback Beau Allen’s UK recruiting dilemma has echoes of his father’s past

The top-ranked high school quarterback prospect in the state of Kentucky thrives in a pass-oriented offense. He holds a scholarship offer from the University of Kentucky. He plays in an area of the state where passion for UK sports runs high.

Yet at a time when the Wildcats employ a run-heavy offensive approach, the question is whether UK is the best place for a throwing QB.

That is the recruiting dilemma facing Lexington Catholic star junior quarterback Beau Allen.

Beau Allen scrambling.JPG
Lexington Catholic junior quarterback Beau Allen (11) holds scholarship offers from Kentucky, Michigan, Washington State, Maryland, Duke and Cincinnati, among others. Matt Goins

In 1984, it was also the scenario confronting Bill Allen, Beau’s father, when the gun-slinging QB at Morgan County High School was contemplating whether to accept a scholarship from UK and Coach Jerry Claiborne.

Now, of course, Mark Stoops and Kentucky have ridden the power running of Benny Snell to a 6-1 start and the No. 12 ranking in this week’s Associated Press Top 25.

In 1984, Claiborne and Kentucky rode a three-headed tailback rotation of George Adams, Marc Logan and Mark Higgs to a 9-3 record and the Hall of Fame Bowl championship.

During the early 1980s, Bill Allen was lighting up the mountains of Eastern Kentucky with gaudy passing numbers. “We were running the shotgun, four wide receivers, two on each side (of the line) at a time when that was almost unheard of in Kentucky high school football,” Bill Allen says of Morgan County.


The Herald-Leader is now offering a digital sports-only one-year subscription for $30. You'll get unlimited access to all Herald-Leader sports stories.

After ending his high school career with 6,440 passing yards and 42 touchdown throws, Bill Allen earned scholarship offers from Louisville, Vanderbilt, Duke and BYU, in addition to UK.

“I was all Kentucky,” Bill Allen said. “The way a lot of kids grow up dreaming about playing basketball for Kentucky, that was me. Except I was all about Kentucky football. I thought I would be the quarterback who took Kentucky football to the Sugar Bowl.”

Before he committed to UK, Bill Allen says his father, Henry, sat him down for a talk.

“He wanted me to go to Kentucky, too, but he did point out that, the things we had done (offensively) in high school, that wasn’t the way Coach Claiborne played,” Bill Allen says. “Now, I don’t remember saying this, but my Dad swears after he told me that, I said “Well, I’ll make him change.’”

Bill Allen signed with Kentucky.

Bill Allen as quarterback.JPG
As a Kentucky Wildcats freshman quarterback, Bill Allen (12) worked in a preseason practice under the watch of Doug Martin (kneeling), who is now the head coach at New Mexico State. Lexington Herald-Leader file photo

In five years in the UK program, he never started a game and threw 13 total passes, completing seven.

“I think because I went to UK, I had some opportunities in my life I might not have had (otherwise),” says Bill Allen, the president of the Bank of the Bluegrass. “But, just on the football front, it did not turn out to be a great fit.”

At 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, Beau Allen is already bigger than his dad was, 6-1, 180, in his playing days.

This fall as a junior, Beau Allen “has learned to play quarterback,” Lexington Catholic Coach Nigel Smith says. “He’s always had great talent, great arm talent. Now he’s figuring out the mental side of the game a bit more, maturing as a young man and as a football player. That’s going to carry him pretty far because he has great tools.”

So far this season, Beau Allen has thrown for almost 2,600 yards and 28 touchdowns.

Beau Allen throwing motion.JPG
When it comes time to pick a college, Lexington Catholic junior quarterback Beau Allen (11) says he is looking for “an offense that fits me, and a place that feels like home.” Alex Slitz

Besides Kentucky, Michigan, Washington State, Maryland, Duke and Cincinnati are among the schools that have offered the Lexington Catholic star.

“I’m totally open right now,” Beau Allen says of his recruitment.

A trip through recent UK football history illustrates why Beau Allen is so important to the Wildcats as a recruit.

Over the past four decades, the best Wildcats quarterbacks — Bill Ransdell, Tim Couch, Jared Lorenzen, Andre Woodson — have all been homegrown.

After Kentucky completed only three passes in its 14-7 win over Vanderbilt on Saturday night, UK’s Stoops was asked Monday at his weekly news conference what UK is telling QB and wide receiver recruits who may not be tantalized by the Cats’ current reliance on the running game.

“You have to do what you have to do to win football games,” Stoops said. “I think most recruits understand that.”

In making his college choice, Beau Allen says he is looking for “an offense that fits me, and a place that feels like home.”

The Lexington Catholic QB says he has “talked to a lot of people” about whether he would be a good fit in the system that UK co-offensive coordinators Eddie Gran and Darin Hinshaw utilize.

“They’ve run the ball a lot recently,” Beau Allen says. “But on previous teams they’ve been on, they threw the ball a lot.”

In the three years Gran and Hinshaw ran the offense at the University of Cincinnati (2013-15), the Bearcats averaged over 300 yards a game passing each season. In 2015, UC QBs threw for an average of 360 yards a contest.

Whatever the similarities between the UK recruiting scenarios of the Allens, father and son, Bill Allen says he sees one important difference between Kentucky football of the 1980s and now.

“Coach Claiborne was never going to change the way he played offense,” Bill Allen said. “Beau’s talked a lot with Coach Gran and Coach Hinshaw. The current staff, I believe, they do want to be balanced and throw it more than they are now.”

Mark Story: (859) 231-3230; Twitter: @markcstory

Bill Allen as banker.JPG
Former Kentucky quarterback Bill Allen, now president of Bank of the Bluegrass, in 2009. Matt Goins

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader