Hogs Look To Slay JaMarcus The Giant

FAYETTEVILLE -- To hear Arkansas' coaches describe JaMarcus Russell, one might think he's a mythical figure instead of LSU's quarterback.

Based on what they've said, Russell sounds like something out of a fairy tale that football coaches tell their kids when it's bedtime.

He's a 6-foot-6, 260-pound giant who's hard to tackle, has a strong arm and leads the Southeastern Conference's top scoring offense.

"First of all, he knows he can't be hurt. Most people cannot get him down," Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said. "You see Tennessee's linemen take a full shot at him, and he doesn't even flinch. I mean, he's so big."

Arkansas defensive coordinator Reggie Herring described Russell as a "big human" with a "cannon for an arm." Rumor has it the junior can throw a football at least 80 yards.

"The guy is really very, very unique," Herring said, "because I don't know that you'll ever see a quarterback of that physical stature and at the same time have an arm that (he) can stand flat-footed and throw the length of the field."

Russell will likely be the biggest obstacle standing in No. 5 Arkansas' way when the two teams meet at 1:30 p.m. today in War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

The Razorbacks (10-1, 7-0 Southeastern Conference) clinched the SEC West with Saturday's win at Mississippi State, but the stakes haven't diminished. They've just changed.

Arkansas has reeled off 10 consecutive wins since a season-opening loss to No. 3 Southern California, and a win today over a top 10 team like LSU would keep the Razorbacks' national championship hopes alive.

In addition, Arkansas could reclaim The Golden Boot Trophy and gain more confidence heading into next Saturday's SEC Championship Game with its first win over LSU since 2002.

As if that weren't enough, running back Darren McFadden could boost his Heisman Trophy chances with an impressive showing in front of a national TV audience. But the Razorbacks must first worry about Russell.

Though his play is sporadic at times and he's been known to make costly mistakes, Russell is considered an NFL talent with his strong arm and imposing frame.

Florida coach Urban Meyer, whose team held Russell to 24 of 41 passing for 228 yards with one touchdown and three interception in a 23-10 win on Oct. 7, compared Russell to Jacksonville Jaguars' 6-foot-5, 242-pound quarterback Byron Leftwich.

"I think (Russell's) more mobile than everybody gives him credit for, (he) has a great arm and I think he's one of the best quarterbacks we've ever gone against," Meyer said.

For the most part, Arkansas has had success against unconventional quarterbacks this season, but Russell poses a unique challenge for a defense that has been battered by injuries at linebacker and in the secondary.

"The bottom line is you've got to get him down," Herring said. "If you contain him, he'll step up in the pocket and deliver the ball. If you get him flushed out of the pocket, he'll make you miss and move and create off the run."

In last year's meeting, the Razorbacks held Russell to only 13 of 29 passing for 194 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. But LSU won 19-17 to clinch the SEC West title.

After studying film, Arkansas' coaches say Russell appears to be making better decisions. He's thrown only seven interceptions in 285 pass attempts this season, and his 24 touchdown passes rank second in the SEC.

Russell has accounted for 246.6 yards per game -- second-most in the SEC -- and he has rallied the Tigers to a pair of fourth-quarter comebacks in the last three weeks.

"JaMarcus Russell is a load. He can run and he can throw," Arkansas cornerback Chris Houston said. "So basically if we can just keep pressure on him and have him throw the ball up, hopefully me and the secondary can make plays on the ball."

Sophomore Nathan Emert tried to simulate Russell during Arkansas' practices this week, but that's a tough role for the former Shiloh Christian quarterback to play. Emert is four inches shorter and around 30 pounds lighter than Russell.

"That's like comparing Godzilla to Don Knotts," Herring said.

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