Scary Thought: Jones Is Faster This Year

FAYETTEVILLE — There has been no need to question Felix Jones' speed, at least not lately.

Defensive coordinators know the junior is fast. Maybe not as explosive as that other Arkansas running back, but it's close.

Special teams coaches also know by now to take Jones' speed into account, especially when determining whether to kick the football to him. One mistake and he's gone for a touchdown.

But after seven games this season, it appears that Jones is actually running faster than he did a year ago. Or maybe defenders have simply gotten slower.

"Oh yeah, I believe I've gotten a little faster," Jones said Monday, as if it were no secret. Apparently, it's not.

"I think he's a better football player this year than he was last year," Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said. "I think he's faster."

Jones isn't exactly sure what his 40-yard dash time is — he guessed it was around 4.4 seconds.

Whatever it is, the Tulsa native has managed so far this season to show his breakaway speed and dispel the notion that he's nothing more than Darren McFadden's backup.

"All eyes are on Darren, and then all of a sudden Felix gets in the game and there he goes down the sideline," Nutt said.

While McFadden remains a Heisman Trophy candidate, the argument could be made that Jones has been Arkansas' more explosive and dangerous running back this season.

The 6-foot, 207 pounder leads the nation in yards per carry, averaging nearly a first down — 9.6 yards — every time he touches the football.

Jones has needed only 81 carries to gain 774 yards and seven touchdowns this season. And his average of 110.6 yards rushing per game ranks third in the Southeastern Conference behind only McFadden (133.1) and Kentucky's Rafael Little (113.7).

"I feel like every play I want to score. I've got to score, that's just me," Jones said. "If I don't get it, I try to get as much as I can."

Jones' running style differs from McFadden's. It's more shifty and elusive compared to McFadden's bruising approach, which has taken a toll on last year's Heisman Trophy runner-up.

McFadden hasn't looked as explosive this season while nursing a slight concussion early on and bruised ribs as of late. That's where Jones comes in to help carry the load and show defenses a different look.

Jones has broken a run of at least 36 yards in each of Arkansas' seven games this season. He scored on a 38-yard scamper down the right sideline on his first carry in last Saturday's 44-8 win at Ole Miss.

Jones finished with 15 carries for 101 yards and two touchdowns against the Rebels. It was his fifth 100-yard game, only one fewer than McFadden. His seven rushing touchdowns are as many as McFadden has this season.

"If you know Felix, that's the way he plays. There is only one speed. There is not a halfway switch; he doesn't have that," Nutt said. "It's full, full speed.

"He's a competitor who hates to lose. When you hand him the ball, he's going to try to score every time he touches it."

That seems to be the case even when he's on special teams.

Jones has returned a pair of kickoffs for touchdowns this season, a 90 yarder in the season opener against Troy University and an 82 yarder against Kentucky.

He's one of only three kick returners in the nation who have scored two touchdowns this season, and his 31.58 yards per kickoff return ranks fourth nationally.

Jones said he's gotten faster this season thanks to a summer workout plan created by Arkansas strength and conditioning coach Don Decker. The results have been noticeable so far.

"I just see a guy that has very, very quick acceleration," Nutt said of Jones. "I think he's faster this year. He turns a corner quicker."

Felix Jones

Age: 20

Class: Junior

Size: 6-foot, 207 pounds

Hometown: Tulsa, Okla.

Notable: Jones has already recorded five 100-yard rushing games this season, as many as he had all of last season. He has 12 100-yard games in his career, which spans only two-plus seasons. He ranks third in the Southeastern Conference and 21st nationally with an average of 110.57 yards per game this season. He's also averaging 9.6 yards per carry, the most by anyone in college football.

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