A lot of U of L fans I’m talking to aren’t too concerned about the departure of running back Anthony Allen (transfer) and Mario Urrutia (to the NFL Draft).
They’re thinking of the dropped passes by Urrutia. The less-than-healthy running of Allen in the second half of the season.
But the fact of the matter is, in two days, U of L lost school record-holders at two skill positions.
Allen is its single-game rushing record holder and its leader in touchdown carries for each of the past two seasons, a player who ran for 20 touchdowns in 25 career games played.
In Urrutia, they lose the school’s all-time leader in yards per catch, and a player who would’ve been the nation’s No. 2 returning receiver in career yards per catch.
Maybe more important than that, they lose the favorite target of presumptive starting quarterback Hunter Cantwell, who got along well with Urrutia and almost always looked to him as the first option.
Urrutia, I think, more than anyone missed the presence of an old position coach — Paul Petrino, whose in-your-face, hands-on style seemed to bring out the best in Mario. His season this year was nearly a complete loss. He didn’t make plays when he had the chance, seemed to lose the confidence of his quarterback and coaches and in general became a non-factor.
Here’s what I don’t understand in situations like this. Urrutia obviously didn’t jibe with the new staff, for whatever reason. But do these players not understand that they’re playing for themselves as much as they are for the coaches or anyone else?
It didn’t help that he often was getting the ball in positions that required a quick move and burst of speed to spring free. He got fewer downfield looks this year than in the past (partly due to his own failure to execute in practice and games). The short game isn’t really his thing, and you just wonder how well he’ll do in combine drills.
But several scouts I talked to said that most teams will be willing to discount this season as the result of general offensive dysfunction if he manages to impress people in workouts. None said that he would’ve hurt himself by another year in school, however.
That’s no longer an option, now that he has signed with an agent. This wasn’t a good career move for him. He needed to get his head on straight and have a great senior year. He’s got the talent to succeed at the next level, but it’s a long shot coming off the season he just had.
Regardless, it means that new offensive coordinator Jeff Brohm and Cantwell have a lot of work to do.
The upside for them is that U of L returns running backs Bilal Powell and Brock Bolen, both of whom were more effective at the end of the season than Allen. And that Urrutia, if he had another season like this one, would’ve been little use next year anyway. At this point in the program, if guys don’t want to be there, the team certainly is better off without them. But I suspect that when people look back, losing Urrutia will be bigger than maybe they’re realizing now.
A final thought. Several fans have noted the irony of U of L’s denying Allen permission to transfer to Arkansas. I’d agree. It’s at the very least questionable coming from a school that took Marvin Stone after UK tried to impose the same kinds of restrictions on him.
Allen hasn’t expressed a desire to transfer to Arkansas, so it’s likely a moot point. But one that probably wouldn’t stand up in the court of public opinion if pressed.
I can understand U of L not wanting to lose players to Bobby Petrino at Arkansas. But if he left the cupboard so bare, with so many bad actors, then I don’t understand the concern. Regardless, if you’re going to take players against upcoming opponents, you don’t have much philosophical ground to stand on in denying other schools the same opportunity.