The Oberlin College football team suffered through one of its worst seasons in recent memory in 2016, going 0–10. However, for followers of the Yeomen, there was a bright spot. Then first-year quarterback Zach Taylor was able to excite fans with his dynamic play, accounting for 2,284 total yards and 16 total touchdowns. This impressive season would be the beginning of one of the most accomplished individual careers in Oberlin history. Unfortunately, now in his fourth year, Taylor has been plagued by injuries in his final season, forcing him to appear in only four of the team’s eight games this season.
On Nov. 16, Taylor will see his illustrious Oberlin career come to a close, but, like a true leader, he is leaving the program in good hands. First-year Chris Allen Jr. has appeared in every game this year, throwing for 891 yards and 2 touchdowns. Coming into the season listed as Taylor’s backup, Allen wasn’t expected to contribute.
“I didn’t really expect to play right away,” Allen said. “Maybe some garbage time throughout the season, but playing in the important moments of games was definitely something that I did not expect.”
An injury to Taylor in the closing minutes of the Yeomen’s week-one matchup against Kalamazoo College forced Allen into the game. Since then, he’s been the team’s primary quarterback.
“I think that he’s done a really good job in a really tough situation,” said Head Football Coach Jay Anderson. “Whenever you’re a [first-year] and get thrown in there, it’s not easy. Especially at the quarterback position.”
While Taylor and Allen have different play styles, the way their first years as college football players unfolded is eerily similar. Both were thrown into the fire early in their first seasons, both were surrounded by a bunch of other young players, and both teams struggled to get wins. However, these circumstances aren’t the only similarity between the two that Anderson has noticed.
“The thing that pops to me is their arm talent,” Anderson said. “You could see a couple years ago, when Zach was starting out for us, that he had a lot of talent and just needed some experience. It’s the same thing for Chris. … They’re both great leaders, confident on and off the field. Extremely poised. [This mentality] struck me with Zach and Chris is the same.”
Like most young quarterbacks, Taylor took time to reach his potential, but his development over his career paid off for the team. Before injuries stole this season from him, he gradually improved each year, going from a talented newcomer in his first year to an All-North Coast Athletic Conference Honorable Mention selection as a third-year. While Allen’s rook- ie numbers might not match up to Taylor’s, he has one advantage over Taylor that could help his overall development in the long run: Taylor has been helping him along all season.
“Zach has been a great mentor for me,” Allen said. “He knows what it’s like to be in this position. Being able to learn under him has been extremely beneficial because he has seen so much at the college level, so being able to pick his brain to prepare is helpful.”
Taylor’s influence on Allen hasn’t gone unnoticed. Anderson has seen the pair interact since August, when the team returned to campus for their fall camp, and has enjoyed watching that relationship unfold.
“I think [Zach’s influence] is just keeping Chris calm,” Anderson said. “Having a guy like Zach who’s been through all of it these past few years to be this calming presence has helped Chris grow.”
As a result of the injuries, Taylor hasn’t been able to contribute on the field, but he has willingly stepped into his new role as a mentor.
“I’ve just been coaching up the young guys and making sure they’re prepared for Saturdays,” Taylor said. “It’s been awesome to see [Allen] grow through- out every game this season.”
At this point in the season, growth seems to be a major theme for the Yeomen. In addition to Allen, the team’s offense has seen major contributions from a host of other first- and second-year players. Top run- ning backs Kobe Brooks and Ryan McCrum, and top receivers Brandon Davies, Brian Colarusso, and Tim Martin have all been key players for the team this season.
“We’re young and talented on offense, but they’re growing together,” Anderson said.
While the season has not gone according to plan, Allen recognizes that it could be an important stepping stone for the future of the program.
“I really think this season will only make us better and stronger for the years to come,” Allen said. “Even with losses, there’s always something that we can take from each game and build off of. … The goal for sure is to win conference championships in the next two to three years, [as well as] being able to compete in the national playoffs. I’m not really worried about personal accolades as long as we’re winning.”
Allen might not want to talk about personal accolades, but it is hard for others to not talk about the immense potential that he possesses.
“The future is bright,” Anderson said. “He’s extremely talented and extremely committed. … We’re excited to see where he can go.”
As far as replacing Taylor, Oberlin’s all-time leader in total offense with 7,594 total yards and 61 total touchdowns, Allen has a long way to go. However, he has at least one person who thinks he’s up to the challenge.
“I think Chris will have a great career here,” Taylor said. “I hope he [breaks my records]. That’s what records are for.”