|Blakely turns the corner against Southeast in 2010|
|Allen blasts through in the 2011 state championship game|
BRADENTON -- Former Manatee High Running Backs Leon Allen and Mike Blakely have been answering the call early in their college careers. Auburn has been looking to Blakely, who transferred from Florida, to help with their struggling ground game. At Western Kentucky, Manatee alum Willie Taggart has been going to Allen, a true freshman, early and often, while yet another Hurricane RB joins him in the Hilltopper's backfield.
Though he was plagued by injuries his senior year, most scouts thought Blakely was among the best handful of RB prospects in the 2010 class. The versatile tailback signed with Florida just before Urban Meyer's unexpected departure, which prompted a transfer to his second-choice school Auburn, where he is currently a redshirt freshman and getting carries, while the Tigers look to find their rhythm in the ground game. Blakely had 42 yards against Mississippi State and 32 against Louisiana-Monroe.
Leon Allen waited patiently behind Blakely at Manatee, and even sported his number 7 jersey when Blakely graduated. The explosive runner had a breakout year in 2011, emerging as the 'Canes feature back, while helping Manatee win a state title. Despite just one season as a starting RB in high school, Allen is on the field as a true freshman this season, running the ball against national powerhouses like Alabama. He is second on the team in rushing, averaging 6 yards per carry and had a breakout game against Southern Miss, logging 132 yards on only 11 attempts, while logging 93 yards against Austin Peay.
Ben Axon, Blakely's predecessor at Manatee is also on the Hilltoppers squad this season. Axon, who is now 22 after losing a scholarship to South Carolina and then bouncing around community colleges the past few seasons, has two years of elegibility left. The 6'2 running back is one of a number of backs who've shared time behind Allen and Antonio Andrews. He currently has 34 yards on 8 carries.
That means the last three Manatee High running backs are playing on Division 1 fields this season, which will surely have college scouts taking a close look at the 'Canes current tailback Trayvon Walters, who's off to a good start in terms of following in the trio's footsteps. Next up is the race to see who among them will be the first to play on a Sunday.