Parker Looks To Show What LSU Missed

FAYETTEVILLE -- Stephen Parker grew up less than an hour from Baton Rouge, La., so naturally he had friends who were LSU fans. And so were their parents.

On Saturdays, Parker would tag along when his friends made the short drive to Tiger Stadium. He'd tailgate outside the stadium and then go inside to be among the thousands of spectators in the stands to watch LSU play.

But by no means was Parker an LSU fan.

"I never owned like an LSU hat or anything. It wasn't like that," said Parker, who grew up in Mandeville, La., a small city north of Lake Pontchartrain.

"I just like that it was a big college and a lot of fun. (But) I wasn't necessarily rooting for LSU or anything."

The Tigers weren't too high on Parker, either.

LSU didn't pursue the offensive guard coming out of high school, and he decided to walk on at Arkansas instead of accepting a scholarship offer to either Louisiana-Monroe or Lousiana-Lafayette.

"LSU, they didn't really show much interest," Parker said. "So whatever."

The No. 9 Tigers (9-2, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) will get another chance to face the offensive lineman they passed on at 1:30 p.m. Friday in Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium. That's when Parker will start his final regular-season game for the No. 5 Razorbacks (10-1, 7-0 SEC).

The senior's presence on Arkansas' offensive line is easy to see. He's one of the team's more vocal and intimidating seniors, walking around the locker room like a 6-foot-4, 318-pound modern-day Viking with his shaved head and long, scraggly goatee.

"I think if he got a few tattoos, he'd be even more intimidating," Arkansas center Jonathan Luigs said. "He's got the look of an offensive guard, and he shows it on Saturdays."

Parker was named the SEC's offensive lineman of the week for his dominant performance in a 44-10 win over Louisiana-Monroe on Oct. 28. But his impact on the front line was perhaps most evident Saturday when he missed all but about 15 snaps of a 28-14 win at Mississippi State because of a strained knee.

Senior Jeremy Harrell replaced Parker at left guard, but the timing of the offensive line seemed off without the three-year starter in the lineup. A certain attitude and aggressiveness was missing, as well.

Arkansas' offensive line struggled to open holes for tailbacks Darren McFadden and Felix Jones to run through, and quarterback Casey Dick faced constant pressure.

Things got so bad that Parker approached Arkansas offensive line coach Mike Markuson early in the second half and asked to be put in the game, even though the senior knew he couldn't be as dominant as usual because of the knee injury.

"We were only up by one score, and our offense really wasn't working that well," Parker said. "Mississippi State was fighting. They were fighting like crazy, so it was one of those things that if there is any chance that we're going to lose a game, I didn't want to have any regrets."

Parker played only two series, but one of them led to the Razorbacks building a 14-point toward the end of the third quarter thanks to 35-yard touchdown pass by Dick to wide receiver Marcus Monk on a trick play.

Parker is expected to start Saturday, though his knee isn't fully healed. He returned to practice Tuesday with a large brace covering his knee, and after missing last year's game at LSU because a hamstring injury, he's not about to sit out again.

"He wants to play in this one. It's LSU," Markuson said. "He doesn't want to miss this one."

Parker admits he never expected to be in this position to begin with. He wasn't sure if he wanted to play college football after graduating from St. Paul Catholic High, but he decided to walk on at Arkansas after his father -- a UA graduate -- randomly called Markuson.

Parker spent his first two years on the scout team, and he didn't receive a scholarship until before his third season. But in a twist that would even surprise him, Parker has a chance to end his career near his hometown -- in New Orleans playing in the Sugar Bowl.

"That would definitely be a big homecoming for me," Parker said. "You really couldn't write that any better for me. It'd definitely be a storybook ending."

McFadden Named Finalist For Doak Walker Award

Arkansas running back Darren McFadden has earned his share of attention lately, and the postseason awards may be coming soon, too.

McFadden was named Monday as one of three finalists for the Doak Walker Award, given annually to the nation's best running back. Michigan's Mike Hart and West Virginia's Steve Slaton join McFadden on the short list.

McFadden leads the Southeastern Conference with 1,303 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns. The sophomore is the third running back in Arkansas history to have back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons, and he's only 85 yards shy of breaking Madre Hill's single-season school record of 1,387 yards in 1995.

The Doak Walker recipient will be announced live on ESPN at 7 p.m. Dec. 7.

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