AP photo by Beth Hall|
Despite stellar stats, Arkansas running back Felix Jones continues to play second fiddle to Darren McFadden.
Arkansas' other tailback
Jones' numbers, skills complement McFadden
By Josh Cooper
TUSCALOOSA — Looking at Felix Jones' list of honors and accomplishments in the University of Arkansas game notes, one would think he is at worst a Heisman Trophy candidate in 2007.
Maxwell award watch list, Doak Walker Award watch list, SEC first team running back. Then turn the page and there is fellow running back Darren McFadden's laundry list of accolades.
But that's just the way life is for Jones, who finished second in Southeastern Conference rushing behind McFadden last season: constantly living in the 2006 Heisman trophy runner-up's shadow every week but always using a burst of speed to bring him to the forefront each Saturday.
"I feel like with the talent he has, he can start anywhere in the country," McFadden said. "He can go out there, and sometimes he may get overlooked, which is why I try to give him as much credit as I can."
At 6-foot, 207 pounds, Jones gives two inches and about eight pounds to the 6-foot-2, 215 pound McFadden. He isn't considered to be as powerful a runner, but he offers the Razorbacks a change of pace.
Jones is considered to be more of an explosive speed back. Last season, he averaged 7.6 yards per attempt to McFadden's 5.8 while gaining a total of 1,168 yards on the season.
Oddly enough Arkansas coach Houston Nutt pointed out during Wednesday's SEC coaches teleconference that Jones — who is also his team's kick returner — garnered All-American honors one year before McFadden.
In 2005, Jones averaged 31.9 yards on kickoff returns to become the first freshman in Arkansas history to be named to the All-America team.
"He's so valuable," Nutt said. "I don't see how you could say Felix is under the radar with the things he has done in the ballgame. He's really made a difference."
When Nutt signed both Jones and McFadden coming out of high school in 2005, he said he never envisioned them both becoming such important assets to his team so quickly.
Jones, a four-star prospect and the nation's 19th-best athlete, according to Rivals.com, is from Booker T. Washington High in Tulsa, Okla., where he rushed for 2,282 yards and scored 48 touchdowns.
When he came to Arkansas as a freshman, he was used primarily as a kick returner, but still managed to gain 626 yards rushing for a team that went 4-7.
Even that season, Jones was overshadowed by his running mate, who was the Southeastern Conference's freshman of the year.
But all that doesn't matter to Jones. He and McFadden are friends, and when he talks about being in the same backfield as McFadden, it's difficult for him to hide his enjoyment.
"It's real fun because you can watch him go out there and play and loosen up the defense for me. And I go out there and play as hard as I can and have fun," Jones said. "We go out there and do what we do every day in practice and try to perform to our best."
When Saban mentioned Jones and McFadden earlier this week, he said Arkansas had two first-round draft picks in its backfield, and Jones is aware of the comparisons to another certain duo that dominated the SEC in 2004. But he doesn't let those expectations bother him. He and McFadden are trying to make their own legacy.
"A lot of guys do say that we resemble the Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams combination at Auburn," Jones said. "We are taking something and molding it into our own that we can call our own."
Arkansas at Alabama
Save $84.50 a year off our newsstand price:
Subscribe today for only 38 cents a day!