Irons Breaks Out Against Arkansas

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas defensive end Jamaal Anderson is plenty familiar with Auburn running back Kenny Irons.

Last season, it was against Anderson and the rest of the Razorbacks' defense that Irons had a coming-out party.

He'd put together a couple 100-plus yard games against lower-level competition but after running for just 27 yards against South Carolina just before the Tigers' trip to Fayetteville, Irons was replaced by Brad Lester.

When Lester went down with an injury, though, the then-junior quickly took advantage. He ran for 126 yards in the second half to finish with a career-high 182 yards.

"He's a tough, hard running back," Anderson said. "He wouldn't stop running after contact. He kept his feet driving. That was one thing about him that impressed me a lot."

Now, Irons is ready for Round 2 with the Razorbacks. Now, he comes into the game as not only Auburn's starting running back but as the top back in the Southeastern Conference, one spot ahead of Arkansas' Darren McFadden.

"I'm a speed, slasher-type guy," Irons said. "I'm a pretty powerful back with good speed, power and peripheral vision."

Power is the universal word to describe Irons' running.

Auburn defensive end Quentin Groves used just one word to describe his teammate.

"Powerful," Groves said. "Kenny is a load, I'll tell you that much."

After rolling against the Razorbacks, Irons finished the regular season with five more 100-yard games, including a 218-yard effort against LSU.

Irons started this season on a high note, running for 183 yards and one touchdown in the season-opener against Washington State but ran for just 139 yards in the next two games before sitting out the Tigers' game against Buffalo with an injury.

He bounced back last week, running for 117 yards and two scores against South Carolina, the school he transferred from after his sophomore season.

In the offseason, it wasn't Irons' running he worked most to improve. It was his blocking.

"That's something I knew I really needed to improve on," Irons said. "With coach (Eddie) Gran by my side, I've gotten much better at blocking."

Gran is Auburn's running backs coach.

Facing running backs like McFadden and Felix Jones in practice prepares Arkansas' defense for backs like Irons.

"When you go against good running backs every day in practice, come game time you're used to it," Anderson said.

Earlier in the season, the Razorbacks struggled with tackling. If they are to have success slowing down Irons, that can't be a concern.

"He's probably the best back we'll face all year," said linebacker Sam Olajubutu. "We've just got to gang tackle and get him down. Last year, he had a great game against us and we're just trying not to let that happen again."

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