McFadden Emerges As Heisman Favorite In '07

NEW YORK — Darren McFadden's plans for the next few days are rather simple. He wants to get back to Fayetteville, get back into a groove and take the last of his final exams today.

After spending the past week on a whirlwind tour that took him to award shows in Orlando and New York, the sophomore is looking forward to everything returning to normal. Or as normal as they can be for a 19-year-old Heisman Trophy runner-up. "I'm really ready to get back home because it seems like I've been gone forever," McFadden said Sunday. But his plans for the future are much bigger. By finishing second in the Heisman voting behind winner Troy Smith of Ohio State, McFadden will likely enter next fall as the overwhelming favorite to win the famous statue. McFadden now has the name recognition. He'll certainly get plenty of national attention after being overlooked for much of this season. And with Smith and Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn being seniors, McFadden is the only one of the three Heisman finalists who has a chance of returning to New York next year. "By finishing second as a sophomore, that's just going to make me work harder for next season to get back here," said McFadden, who became the first player in Arkansas history to be named a Heisman finalist. West Virginia running back Steve Slaton, another sophomore who finished fourth in the Heisman voting, will also be considered among the favorites for next year. But any conversation regarding the award will all but certainly begin with McFadden. "As a 6-(foot)-2 running back with that kind of speed, I feel for any defense guy that has the task of tackling him or trying to contain him," Smith said. Arkansas coach Houston Nutt has no doubt that McFadden will be a Heisman finalist again next year. Running backs coach Danny Nutt, meanwhile, believes McFadden has a chance to be the school's first Heisman winner after receiving 45 first-place votes this year. "I believe so, if he has a great summer, continues to work hard and I know he will because I know (fellow running back) Felix Jones is going to push him," Danny Nutt said. "I'm looking forward to the future." But getting back to New York as a Heisman finalist won't be easy for McFadden, even with his surprising second-place finish over Quinn on Saturday night. For the most part, McFadden didn't make his presence known on a national stage until the final month of the regular season. But as the likely front-runner for next year's Heisman, McFadden knows he'll face more scrutiny and get more unwanted attention from the very beginning of the season. "I know that there is going to be a whole lot more eyes on me than there ever was because the Heisman ceremony and (the) things we've been doing all week have (generated) national attention," McFadden said. In addition, there has been a recent history of underclassmen who have had a difficult time repeating as Heisman finalists after finishing second the previous year. As a sophomore, Florida quarterback Rex Grossman was the runner-up to Nebraska's Eric Crouch in 2001. But Grossman didn't earn a return trip to New York the following year. Pittsburgh wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald finished second in the Heisman voting as a sophomore in 2003, but he passed on a chance to win the trophy by leaving early for the NFL. And in 2004, Oklahoma freshman running back Adrian Peterson was named the runner-up to Southern California quarterback Matt Leinart. But injuries have kept Peterson from repeating as a Heisman finalist. McFadden isn't eligible to enter the NFL Draft this year because he's not three years removed from high school. But next year, the running back has the chance to go to New York twice, first as Heisman finalist and then as a potential top 5 NFL draft pick — assuming he decides to leave Arkansas early. "Right now, it's something I haven't thought about," McFadden said. "I haven't really considered it yet."

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