Two-sport standout Allen making his mark

• Freshman wide receiver won three events at Oregon Relays on Saturday

By Steve Mims / The (Eugene) Register-Guard

Spring games

When: 11 a.m. May 3

TV: Pac-12

When: 1 p.m. May 3

TV: Pac-12

EUGENE — It feels as though a star — or at least a cult hero — is being born.

Devon Allen has yet to play in a football game at the University of Oregon, but the media circle surrounding him after practice Monday was equaled only by quarterback Marcus Mariota’s as Allen talked about his two-sport spring.

Allen, a redshirt freshman from Phoenix, Ariz., has been praised for his work behind closed doors in football, but his talent was on public display at Hayward Field when he won the 400-meter hurdles Friday and the 110 hurdles and 100-meter dash on Saturday during the Oregon Relays.

“I feel pretty good,” Allen said. “Just a little tired, but other than that, I am OK.”

Allen was the first offensive player head football coach Mark Helfrich named when he started giving out reviews from the Ducks’ scrimmage on Monday.

“He was awesome,” Helfrich said. “We kind of did a physical, fast-start drill right off the bat, and he was one of the first guys up in there. He made a couple plays early and made a great play covering on special teams and as a returner.

“He did what he did on the track. He did a bunch of things really well.”

The 6-foot, 190-pound Allen is among several young wide receivers who are competing to replace Oregon’s top four pass catchers from last season, including Bralon Addison, who tore a knee ligament earlier this month.

“I am starting to get into a rhythm,” he said. “I feel like I know what I am doing, having fun out there.”

Helfrich said Allen is “absolutely” in the mix for playing time in the 2014 season.

“He has always been that guy in track and field, there might be a hurdle in the way, but not too much else to think about,” Helfrich said. “In football, there are a few more moving parts. Him being able to cut it loose and play at track speed is starting to happen more and more, and as a result, he’s starting to make a few more plays.”

Allen said he is working on blocking with fellow receiver Keanon Lowe this spring and also focusing on running pass routes. The speed is obviously there — he won the 100 in a wind-aided 10.55 seconds on Saturday and, less than 20 minutes later, won the high hurdles in 13.73.

“Speed is a big part of my game,” Allen said. “The faster you can be, the easier the game will be. We all know De’Anthony Thomas dominated because he was so fast, so (track) definitely helps with that aspect of the game.”

Mariota has certainly noticed Allen as he looks for some new targets next season.

“He had a great day today,” Mariota said. “He made some catches in key situations and was able to break some tackles and get out and run. He is an incredible athlete. The way he is able to jump around from football to track says a lot about his ability.”

Allen said that double duty is not an issue because he has been doing it most of his life. As a senior at Brophy Prep, he had 43 catches for 749 yards and nine touchdowns in the fall and then set the state record in both hurdle races in the spring.

Cornerback Dior Mathis also competed for the track team Saturday, placing third behind Allen in the 100 at 10.87, and helping the 4x100 relay win in 40.67. Mathis, a candidate to replace Terrance Mitchell in the starting lineup as a senior, also made some plays on special teams both in coverage and on returns during the scrimmage.

Helfrich said Allen and Mathis go through the same practice schedule as their teammates but may vary their workouts on off days with strength and conditioning coach Jim Radcliffe.

“Those guys have managed the two-sport deal very well,” Helfrich said. “You wouldn’t know those guys are doing anything off the field by how they are practicing now.”

Helfrich said allowing players to participate in other sports can benefit the Ducks in recruiting.

“When you talk to other prospective student-athletes, that is a real opportunity here,” he said. “Guys have done it in baseball, basketball, track. If they can handle the academics, they can do anything.”