‘People thought I was insane.’ Beau Allen explains leaving UK for Tarleton State.

To address the question everyone wonders about, yes, the new Tarleton State quarterback and the Texans’ head men’s basketball coach have swapped stories about Kentucky.

The QB, Beau Allen, reports that he likes the basketball coach — Billy Gillispie.

“We’ve gotten to talk a couple of times,” Allen said Thursday via the phone. “We talk about Lexington. I told him I grew up in Lexington and lived there pretty much my whole life. He’s a really nice man.”

Even as late as mid-summer, the idea that Beau Allen would be in Stephenville, Texas, this fall swapping Lexington stories with the exiled former University of Kentucky men’s hoops coach — and quarterbacking the Texans football team to a 3-1 start — would have seemed unthinkable.

Entering Allen’s third full year of college, it was widely presumed that the former Lexington Catholic High School star would spend 2022 as he had 2021 — serving as the top backup at QB behind Will Levis for the Kentucky Wildcats.

Homegrown and the son of a former UK quarterback, Bill Allen, Beau transferring away from Kentucky seemed implausible. Yet Beau Allen said a bolt of self-awareness led him to make the unexpected decision on July 27 to leave his childhood-favorite team.

As the days to UK’s fall camp were counting down, Allen said a feeling hit him hard that he could not bear a third year as a college backup quarterback. He wanted to go somewhere to play now.

“The past year, year and a half in football — and I think some coaches at Kentucky would tell you the same thing — I didn’t have the same motivation, I didn’t wake up feeling the same way going to football,” Allen said. “I think not playing (in games) had more of a toll on me than I ever imagined it could.

“I felt if I could just get on the field somewhere, have an opportunity to compete for a starting spot, I would feel so much better even in my non-football life.”

Into the transfer portal

In the two full seasons he spent at Kentucky, Allen barely played. He attempted only 19 passes in game competition, completing 11 for 132 yards.

Yet, once he put his name in the portal to transfer, Allen’s phone got a workout. That should not come as a surprise. Before college, Allen was one of the most decorated high school quarterbacks produced in the commonwealth in the 21st century. As a four-year starter at Lexington Catholic, he threw for 11,439 yards and 127 touchdowns.

During his original recruitment, Allen had drawn interest from schools such as Georgia, Michigan and West Virginia in addition to passing game guru Mike Leach, then the head coach at Washington State.

A quick release, accuracy and a soft touch on his throws were seen as the strengths of the 6-foot-2, 207-pound Allen.

Once he was in the portal, however, Allen said when he told the many college coaches who called that he was looking for a situation where he would have a chance to become the starting quarterback in 2022, “most people thought I was pretty insane. Most schools weren’t really looking for any guy to come join the competition (to start this season) at that time of the year — which is very understandable. But it is what I wanted to do.”

Tarleton State was a glaring exception to the prevailing sentiment. The Texans had been left scrambling at quarterback after their 2021 starting QB, the ex-Western Kentucky Hilltopper Steven Duncan, gave up his final year of eligibility.

Until Allen became available, it looked like Tarleton head man Todd Whitten would be choosing between either Holy Cross transfer Marco Siderman or redshirt freshman Alex Thole as starting quarterback.

So Allen chose Tarleton, a school located some 105 miles from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. “I think I had heard of it before,” Allen said of Tarleton State. “I didn’t know a whole lot about it.”

In addition to Gillispie, Tarleton turned out to have a surprising number of Kentucky connections. It is the college alma mater of ex-UK football coach Hal Mumme. Tarleton State’s president, James Hurley, is an alumnus of and the former president of the University of Pikeville.

Defying the odds, Allen found a school where he could win the starting QB job on short notice. “I feel like God had a hand in directing me to Tarleton,” Allen said.

Conventional wisdom is that Allen, as a QB, would be a better fit in an Air Raid-style offense rather than the NFL-type attack that successive offensive coordinators Liam Coen and Rich Scangarello have installed for Mark Stoops at UK.

At Tarleton, Allen is not running a true Air Raid. But he said that the Texans’ offensive approach is “a lot like the Art Briles days at Baylor. … We do a lot of similar stuff that they did at the time. We have a little bit of the current Tennessee’s drop-back passing game. Then we have a little bit of the RPO system that Wake Forest has been implementing. It’s a really cool plan, a very fun offense to play in.”

Former Kentucky quarterback Beau Allen was named WAC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance in Tarleton State’s 43-28 win over North Alabama on Sept. 24. Allen completed 18 of 29 passes for 316 yards and four touchdowns in the game.
Former Kentucky quarterback Beau Allen was named WAC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance in Tarleton State’s 43-28 win over North Alabama on Sept. 24. Allen completed 18 of 29 passes for 316 yards and four touchdowns in the game.

Through four games — the Texans have an open date the weekend of Oct. 1 — Allen has thrown for 1,139 yards and 10 touchdowns with four interceptions.

The only loss Tarleton State (3-1) has to date came against FBS foe TCU. Against FCS opponents, Allen has thrown for at least 300 yards in each game and Tarleton has won them all.

A return to Kentucky?

Because of his having redshirted a season at UK plus the NCAA-mandated “free COVID-19” year for anyone playing in college sports in 2020-21, Allen has three seasons of college eligibility remaining after this one.

If he wants it, he will certainly have the chance to transfer back to the FBS level.

“I am not really thinking about that,” he said. “I haven’t really given that too much thought, to be honest with you.”

Are there circumstances under which Allen would consider transferring back to UK if he were recruited to do so?

“I don’t know for sure,” he said. “I haven’t thought much about that at all.”

When ex-Kentucky quarterback Beau Allen (11) entered the transfer portal in late July and told recruiters who subsequently called him that he was looking for a chance to compete for a starting job this season, “most people thought I was pretty insane,” Allen said. However, the former Lexington Catholic star found a place, Tarleton State, where he eventually became the No. 1 quarterback.
When ex-Kentucky quarterback Beau Allen (11) entered the transfer portal in late July and told recruiters who subsequently called him that he was looking for a chance to compete for a starting job this season, “most people thought I was pretty insane,” Allen said. However, the former Lexington Catholic star found a place, Tarleton State, where he eventually became the No. 1 quarterback.

What Allen has learned for sure in this year in which his college path has taken a detour no one else saw coming is that the part of being a football player he values is derived from playing in the games.

“There wasn’t a ‘final straw’ at Kentucky. There wasn’t any act by anyone else that caused me to want to transfer,” Allen said. “It was kind of a self-realization of what I thought would be the best for me. It just kind of took me awhile to figure that out. The absolute best thing (for me) was to find a place where I was playing. With the transfer portal today, you can do something like I did and transfer five days before camp.

“It was definitely a little bit of a leap of faith. But I’m happy I trusted myself. I really couldn’t be happier with something I’ve chosen to do just in terms of how much I care about football and how much I enjoy football nowadays compared to what I did when I wasn’t playing.”