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The Heisman Trophy runner-up last year, Darren McFadden rushed for 112 yards on 25 carries in a win over Alabama.
AP photo by Danny Johnston
The Heisman Trophy runner-up last year, Darren McFadden rushed for 112 yards on 25 carries in a win over Alabama.

Bama's stiff challenge
Crimson Tide prepares to face McFadden and his signature
stiff-arm maneuver

By Josh Cooper 340-2460

TUSCALOOSA — It's Darren McFadden's signature move.

An opposing team's player approaches and tries to wrap up the Arkansas running back and toss him to the turf. But suddenly, McFadden extends his arm, knocks his would-be tackler to the ground and has gone past for more yards.

"It was something my dad taught me when I was younger," McFadden said. "It was something I have been doing for 10 years now. It has gotten better since time went on."

That move, McFadden's size (6-foot-2, 215 pounds) and his speed combine to make it difficult to bring down the 2006 Heisman Trophy runner-up.

Last season, McFadden had 112 yards on 25 rushes against Alabama. The year before, he had 95 yards on eight carries, including a 70-yard run for a touchdown. That 70-yard run happened when McFadden used that stiff-arm maneuver to push away Alabama safety Roman Harper, now with the New Orleans Saints.

On Saturday, Alabama will use several tactics to try to bring McFadden down, and most involve having several players around the ball, so McFadden can't use his strength to knock anyone to the ground.

"It's really important to be physical and tackle well," Alabama coach Nick Saban said.

"It's going to be important that we keep leverage on him, tackle well, get a lot of people around the ball so we don't have a lot of one-on-one tackles."

Along with sending several players at McFadden, Saban will prepare his defense for McFadden's stiff-arm move.

According to linebacker Darren Mustin, the key with the stiff-arm is to stay low. That way, the defender can avoid getting pushed to the ground. Also, the defender can use leverage to bring him down.

And if he does use his arm, Mustin has a technique of his own to stop the maneuver.

"You have break through it," Mustin said. "He is going to try to break your face."

According to Tide cornerback Simeon Castille, if McFadden is barreling down on an Alabama player, it's about more than just technique or hitting him at a certain angle.

"Tackling is a mindset," he said. "You've got to want to tackle. You can't go out there and hope to get the guy down. It starts with mindset and attitude."

While Alabama might bring a game plan to tackle McFadden, executing that philosophy might be another story.

One of the preseason favorites for the 2007 Heisman Trophy, McFadden is bigger and stronger than he was last season.

He appears to have more confidence, too.

"I just try to use the best of my ability to avoid tacklers from getting me one-on-one," McFadden said. "I don't like to go down by just one person tackling me."

Arkansas at Alabama

5:45 p.m.

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