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Arkansas' other tailback has Auburn's attention

POSTED: October 14, 2007 5:06 a.m.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Chattanooga was doing quite a job containing Darren McFadden, swarming the Arkansas star when he ran up the middle and chasing him down when he went outside.

Then Felix Jones took a handoff and sprinted 59 yards for a touchdown — hardly any defenders were close to him.

McFadden is third in the country at 155.8 yards rushing per game, and Jones is eighth at 126.2. But on a per carry basis, Jones is well ahead with 10.5 yards per rush. Although McFadden is the team’s Heisman Trophy hopeful, Jones might be Arkansas’ top big-play threat when the Razorbacks host No. 22 Auburn on Saturday night in Fayetteville.

“He would start at 11 other SEC schools,” Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said.

The Razorbacks have had 15 plays of 40 yards or longer this season, and Jones is responsible for seven — kick returns of 90 and 82 yards, and runs of 73, 71, 59, 44 and 40.

Both kick returns were for touchdowns, and so were three of those runs.

It’s always been this way for Jones, who has received fewer carries than McFadden but averaged more yards per rush since the two arrived together in 2005. Last year Jones ran for 1,168 yards and averaged 7.6 per carry.

The two-star running backs get along well, and Jones credits McFadden for a lot of his success. It’s quite a luxury being the No. 2 option behind last season’s Heisman runner-up.

“He goes in first and really takes on a defense, and he comes back to the sideline, he lets me know what I should look for and how to plan and what kind of players are the aggressors,” Jones said. “He just gives me a little heads up on what I need to know.”

Jones isn’t as big as McFadden and doesn’t run with the same bruising style, but he’s plenty quick. In the Capital One Bowl last year, as a banged-up McFadden was being held to 89 yards, Jones ran for 150. He scored on runs of 76 and 12 yards in a 17-14 loss to Wisconsin.

This season McFadden has been bothered by a few more aches and pains, forcing Jones to step up.
Last weekend, Jones ran for 141 yards and two second-half touchdowns in a 34-15 win over Chattanooga.

Now McFadden and Jones are drawing comparisons to Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown, who led Auburn to an unbeaten season in 2004.

“I feel like those two great running backs came through Auburn. They did great things at Auburn,” McFadden said. “I feel like me and Felix rank right up there with them.”

Doucet’s health
Tigers coach Les Miles said earlier this week that he was “cautiously optimistic” that senior receiver Early Doucet would be back in the lineup when top-ranked LSU plays at No. 17 Kentucky on Saturday.

But Miles has yet to say for certain, and even took the unusual step of closing Tuesday’s practice, meaning reporters could not see whether Doucet was on the field.

On Wednesday, however, LSU athletics spokesman Michael Bonnette said Doucet practiced, raising the likelihood that he will play.

Having entered this season with more than 1,400 yards receiving and 15 touchdowns, Doucet is LSU’s most experienced receiver. However, he has missed four straight games with a groin injury that Miles said occurred during non-contact drills on Sept. 14.

Doucet was not in uniform when LSU defeated Florida 28-24 last Saturday night.
In two games this season, he has 15 catches for 153 yards and two touchdowns.

Little problem
If Kentucky is going to upset No. 1 LSU on Saturday, the Wildcats might have to do it without their top running back and with limited play from their third-stringer.

Starter Rafael Little remains questionable, coach Rich Brooks said Wednesday.
“In the last several weeks with that thigh, he hasn’t done a lot of work in practice,” Brooks said. “We’ll just have to see how the thing either heals up or doesn’t heal up the rest of the week.”

Third-string back Alfonso Smith is still banged up but likely will play, Brooks said. Second-teamer Tony

Dixon will be the primary ball carrier.

Quarterback Andre Woodson said the ground game will need to play a pivotal role if the Wildcats (5-1, 1-1) are to knock off the Tigers (6-0, 3-0).

“With the running game, we have to really try to get some things going, because it’s going to be tough to try to do everything on the passing game,” Woodson said. “We just have to do a great job executing and see what happens.”

Demoted King
Auburn left tackle King Dunlap was expected to be the anchor of the Tigers’ offensive line.

He was the line’s only returning starter, a senior, and a preseason second-team All-Southeastern Conference pick. Then, he lost his starting job to freshman Ryan Pugh and missed two games. He didn’t even travel for the game at Florida, with the coaches citing a sore elbow.

Dunlap got back into the lineup after a shuffling caused by center Jason Bosley’s knee injury against Vanderbilt forced Pugh to take his place.

If Bosley is unable to go against Arkansas Saturday night, Dunlap will be the starter.

“I’m even more motivated after missing those two games,” said Dunlap, who had started 16 consecutive games.

“I’m more focused than I’ve ever been in my career. I’ve just got to finish out strong.”

Tuberville said he can see the difference since the 6-foot-8, 312-pounder returned to the field.

“His fire’s burning a little bit hotter,” Tuberville said. “He knows that he has to pick up his intensity a little bit. King’s got a lot of ability. His intensity has to be there. When he injured his arm, the intensity wasn’t there.”

It’s been a busy time for Dunlap off the field, too.

His second child, daughter Kayla Essence Michelle Dunlap, was born two nights before the opener. He was also arrested three days earlier for failure to pay a traffic ticket.

Honors
LSU tailback Jacob Hester, who ran for 106 yards and the winning touchdown against Florida, and South Carolina defensive end Eric Norwood, who returned two fumbles for touchdowns against Kentucky, were the SEC’s offensive and defensive players of the week.

Tennessee punter and kicker Brandon Colquitt, who had a 42-yard average on six punts and two touchbacks on kickoffs, was the special teams player of the week.



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