Preparing For Hogs' Darren McFadden

How do you prepare to play defense against a tailback universally described as "the leading Heisman Trophy candidate"? That's the problem for Alabama's defense this week, and the Crimson Tide is taking the challenging assignment very seriously.



Alabama's 24-10 victory over Vanderbilt was barely over last Saturday before Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban was talking about the challenge of playing the Arkansas Razorbacks and Darren McFadden. Like most observers of college football, Saban considers McFadden as the nation's finest runner.

Alabama will host the Razorbacks at 5:45 p.m. Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The game will be telecast by ESPN. Bama is 2-0, including a 1-0 record in Southeastern Conference games. Arkansas opened two weeks ago with a non-conference win over Troy, then had an open week to prepare for Alabama.

Earlier this week in discussing the preparations for Arkansas, Saban said it would be difficult to emulate McFadden and his very fine running mate, Felix Jones. "If we had someone who could run like him (McFadden), we'd be playing him," Saban said.

The Tide coach said the scout team would have fast players in the role of McFadden. And those scout tailbacks would not necessarily be tailbacks since speed is the issue.

In the brief glimpse of practice allowed to reporters each day, some thought that freshman fullback Jeramie Griffin had drawn the assignment of being McFadden. In a post-practice interview part of the mystery was revealed.

"There's a few of them," sophomore defensive tackle Lorenzo Washington said. "All I see is the (jersey) numbers. Jonathan Lowe is one of them."

Lowe, a senior wide receiver and kick return specialist, said that he is part of the McFadden committee. "I'm the speed guy," he said, explaining that different aspects of practice call for a different skill. He said that freshman wide receiver Marquis Maze, who has not played this year, is the primary stand-in for Felix Jones.

"There are a lot of things you have to do to try to emulate him," Lowe said, explaining that McFadden is a speed back and a powerful inside runner who can break tackles.

Lowe said, "He's an exceptional athlete. It's hard to emulate him. I'm doing my best. I feel like it's my job to help the guys prepare for Saturday. I'm willing to do what I can."

Lowe said he thinks the defenders "are doing fine" in practice.

Lowe said when he was told his role in practice this week, his thought was, "It's another work day. The level of expectation for me is higher this week, and I have to accept the challenge.

"I have confidence in myself. My thinking is that 'I can do that.'"

Birmingham News reporter Ian Rappaport asked Lowe if he had struck a Heisman pose in practice. "Not one time," Lowe said seriously.

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