MIAMI — Kenny Allen has made his mark as one of the most versatile and accomplished kickers and punters the University of Michigan football program has ever had.
Allen did something this season that only 1940 Heisman Trophy winner Tom Harmon has done since the school began keeping detailed statistics in 1938. Allen joined Harmon in leading the Wolverines in punting average and scoring with at least 100 points in the same season.
Harmon had a 36.9-yard punting average with 117 points on 16 touchdowns, one field goal and 18 extra points.
Allen, heading into Friday night’s (Dec. 30) Orange Bowl game with Florida State, has a 42.6-yard punting average and has scored 100 points with 16 field goals and 52 extra points.
This is the second consecutive year Allen has reached 100 points, and he’s the only Michigan placekicker to do that. The only other Wolverines to do that were offensive stars Harmon (1939-40) and Anthony Thomas (1999-2000).
Allen holds one purely kicking record, and that’s percentage of extra-point kicks with a 50-attempt minimum. He’s perfect on 98 PATs.
He’s made 34 of 42 field goal attempts, and his .8095 accuracy is exceeded only by Bob Bergeron (1981-84, .8285) among those with at least 15 attempts.
Allen’s 43.1 career punting average would be the Michigan record, but he’s 27 attempts shy of the 75 required to qualify.
Add the fact that Allen is one of college football’s best at kickoffs (45 of 77 for touchbacks and a 64.2-yard average), and you have a wonderful weapon who has gone from walk-on to NFL possibilities. He’d like a shot at playing at the highest level.
“I’ll do whatever they want,” said Allen, “but I see myself more as a punter-kickoff guy.”
Allen is 16-for-20 on field goal attempts this season and made a career best 51-yarder in a clutch situation at Iowa. But his four misses came in five consecutive attempts, and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh opened competition for that job in practices after the Wisconsin game.
Harbaugh gets plenty of credit for developing quarterbacks and tight ends, but he also has a fine eye for technique at all positions. He turned out to be the one who noticed the primary flaw in Allen’s place-kicking approach.
“During practices,” said Allen, “he’ll be standing two feet behind us on field goal and punt. If he sees something, he’ll tell us what he thinks, and he’s normally right.
“He said I was going too fast. He came up to me and said, ‘Your time’s too fast on field goals.’ So, I said, ‘All right, I’ll slow it down.'”
He hasn’t missed since, and his 12 consecutive field goal makes are four short of the school record.
Allen said another contributing factor to his early-season problems was having the separate leg swing motions for the three different kicks blur together.
“I work with the coaches who have helped me a lot and try to separate everything,” Allen said. “It’s a lot of mental reps, a lot of film, a lot of stretching, and just getting the punt technique and the field goal technique as separate as possible, and not letting them fall into one another.”
Allen kept all three of his kicking roles, but Harbaugh wondered aloud if doing all the kicking might be too much for one player. How does Allen keep his leg fresh enough to do it all?
“Definitely warming up great (is important),” said Allen. “Don’t over-kick, and if you’re not kicking great, just stop. You don’t need to kick your way out of it. Treatment after practice and taking care of your body.”
It was never clearer that Allen could handle it all than in the regular season finale at Ohio State, when the No. 3 Wolverines lost a double-overtime thriller, 30-27, to the No. 2 Buckeyes.
Allen averaged 47.4 yards on seven punts and still put five of them inside the 20-yard line. He had a 67-yarder, the longest of his career, that reached the end zone and a 55-yarder downed at the OSU four-yard line.
His four kickoffs each went deep into the end zone or entirely through it, and none was returned.
He had a 28-yard field goal to open the game’s scoring and a 37-yarder in the second overtime that could have been the game-winner.
“Obviously, it was the biggest game of the year,” said Allen. “It was nice to perform well in that game, but the most important thing was winning, which we didn’t do. But, yeah, on a personal note I was happy with the way I performed, and I think it’s a testament to the hard work that we put in as a team with the coaches and other specialists I work with.”
He noted the contributions of long-snapper Scott Sypniewski and Garrett Moores, whom Allen and his teammates presented the humorous Peter Mortell Holder of the Year award in a creative video they tweeted out that drew national attention. Allen also credited Jay Harbaugh and Chris Partridge, the assistants who handle most special teams practice, along with Jim Harbaugh.
Allen grew up in Fenton, Michigan, playing soccer, basketball and football. He loved the Wolverines and idolized punter Zoltan Mesko, who went on to a successful NFL career. Michigan meant so much to him that he walked on rather than accept a full-ride scholarship from Oregon State.
Now Allen talks regularly with Mesko and Jay Feely, the Michigan placekicker who played 14 years in the NFL, and has become part of the program’s kicker inner circle.
“He just believed in himself and kept going,” said Wolverines defensive tackle Matt Godin, also from Fenton. “I’m so proud of Kenny.”
By getting and making two field goal attempts in the Orange Bowl, Allen would tie 1994 All-America placekicker Remy Hamilton for second place at Michigan with 14 consecutive made attempts. Brendan Gibbons holds the mark with 16 consecutive over the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
The game with the Seminoles will be played at Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins, owned by Michigan graduate and prime athletic department benefactor Stephen M. Ross.
“I met him a couple of times,” said Allen, “and he’s a really good guy. He looks out for the U-M teams, and I’ve heard great things from some of his players in the NFL and the coaching staff here. Hopefully, we’ll have a chance to say hi to him.”
One of the first things Allen did in Miami, even prior to an official team practice, was go to the practice field to kick on his own. He posted a video that displayed his leg strength and accuracy with a tweet @Kenny_Allen. He drilled the top of a light post beyond the stadium’s stands with a punt while wearing shorts and a T-shirt on Christmas Day.
Allen said his parents, brother and sister, and other family members will be at the Orange Bowl.
Allen’s brother, Jimmy, who has signed with the National Arena League’s Dayton (Ohio) Wolfpack, has the Twitter title “your moms fav kicker” @Jimmy_allen15.
Asked if Jimmy was indeed his mother’s favorite kicker, Kenny said with a smile, “That’s obviously not true. He has fun with that, I don’t.”
Their sister, Hannah, chimed in from @HannahJoAllen: “It’s an ongoing debate in this household.”