Josh Allen established himself as one of the premier edge pass rushers in the SEC during his sophomore and junior seasons. Bypassing a chance to enter the NFL Draft early after the 2017 season, Allen has taken his game to a whole new level as a senior for the No. 14 Kentucky Wildcats.
Allen came to UK a two-star prospect and weighed less than 200 pounds, but he has evolved into a 260-pound monster and the best defensive player in America.
Now counted on as a leader and a team captain, Allen is dominating.
- 84 tackles (leads team)
- 18.5 tackles for loss (tied for 11th nationally)
- 14 sacks (second nationally, school record)
- Five quarterback hurries
- Six forced fumbles (leads SEC, second nationally)
- Two fumbles recovered
- Four pass breakups
- 28.5 career sacks (school record)
Stats only tell part of the story.
Allen demands constant attention from opposing defenses, yet still finds a way to make plays. Even when he doesn't, his mere presence creates opportunities for teammates.
It's no surprise then that, as Allen is playing his best football the Kentucky defense has become one of the best units in America. UK is eighth nationally in scoring defense (16.3 points per game).
Allen lives in opposing backfields even though he rarely sees one-on-one matchups. When he does, offensive linemen have little chance of stopping him.
With South Carolina turning to the pass to try to overcome a big lead Kentucky built in the first half, Allen feasted. He had eight tackles, four tackles for loss, three sacks, a forced fumble and a quarterback hurry.
As UK held No. 14 Mississippi State to 201 total yards, Allen made the pocket uncomfortable from start to finish for quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. He only had one sack, but he forced another holding penalty and the Bulldog offensive line committed six total false starts, knowing how little time they had before Allen was rushing past.
At No. 25 Florida, Allen made the game-ending play. The Gators were trying for a last-minute score, but Allen got to the quarterback and forced a fumble that was returned for a touchdown as time expired.
Amazingly, the Florida game isn't the only one that has ended with a strip sack by Allen. Against Vanderbilt, Allen again made the game-clinching play by taking down Kyle Shurmur and forcing a fumble UK recovered to preserve a 14-7 victory. That put the finishing touches on an eight-tackle, two-sack performance.
Allen's had another two-sack game as UK handcuffed Missouri and star quarterback Drew Lock. With the Wildcat offense struggling, Allen and the UK defense forced Mizzou into eight three-and-outs in eight second-half drives. That opened the door for a walk-off touchdown and an improbable 15-14 victory.
On his Senior Day, Allen had two key fourth-quarter sacks to preserve a 34-23 win over Middle Tennessee. The first gave him the school record for career sacks, the second the school record for sacks in a season.
For the season, 12 of Allen's 14 sacks have come after halftime and eight in the fourth quarter alone. Kentucky has not allowed a single point on any drive on which Allen has had a sack.
Though Allen's reputation is as a pass rusher, he is also stout against the run. And as a senior, his coverage skills have been on display with four pass breakups downfield already in 2018.
Allen is also counted on as a leader by his teammates, and he delivers. As a player who has grown from an unheralded two-star recruit into a high-level NFL prospect, his example is a powerful one. With Allen leading the way, the Wildcats had their best regular season since 1977.
- Chuck Bednarik Award winner
- Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner
- SEC Defensive Player of the Year (AP, coaches)
- First-Team All-SEC (AP, coaches)
- Butkus Award Finalist
- Lott IMPACT Trophy Semifinalist
- Walter Camp Player of the Year Finalist (only non-QB among five finalists)
- Ted Hendricks Award Finalist
- Four-time SEC Defensive Player of the Week