Madison Making A Name At Arkansas

FAYETTEVILLE — Not many outside the Arkansas football program know much about cornerback Isaac Madison, so strong safety Dallas Washington did his best to fill in the blanks this week.

Young. Talented. Fast. Smart. Those are some of the adjectives you'd expect a player to use when talking about his teammate.

But then Washington uttered something out of the ordinary.

"(Madison) reminds me of a smaller Chris Houston," Washington said about the former Arkansas star, who was the Atlanta Falcons second-round draft pick last April. "He reminds me a lot of him."

Madison laughed about the praise Thursday night. And for good reason. The sophomore, who played sparingly last season, is too busy just trying to make a name for himself on the field this spring.

The 6-foot, 181-pound Madison is part of a secondary trying to replace four starters and, so far, the Dallas native has made an impression. Madison opened the spring with the first-team defense and has maintained his status through three weeks.

"From the very first time we put the ball down to where he is today, he's come a long way," cornerbacks coach Lorenzo Ward said. "He has a long way to go, but he has the potential to be pretty good for us."

That could be good news for Arkansas, which is counting on players to step into starting roles after losing veterans like Houston, Darius Vinnett, Michael Grant and Matterral Richardson the past two years.

The departures have left gaping holes, but Madison said it also left plenty of incentive in the winter.

"I looked at the depth chart and said, ‘There's an opportunity open,' Madison said. "So I've got to take it."

The fight for playing time hasn't been easy for Madison, who spent much of his high school career as a running back.

The previous coaching staff liked Madison's speed and figured he had the potential to play cornerback. Madison said 2007 was an adjustment year, but learned plenty about man-to-man coverages.

He's learning even more this spring in a defense that has changed its philosophy. Zone coverages have become the norm for the Hogs.

"The toughest thing is making calls when we're in zones," Madison said. "We're used to playing press man, but I've picked up on it quick."

Said Ward: "His knowledge of what we're doing on defense is getting better and better. ... We've still got a long way to go, but I'm impressed with his progress."

Madison believes speed has been his best asset at the position, which has helped him recover from mistakes. Ward said his footwork is solid, too, but wants the cornerback to improve as an open-field tackler.

The constructive criticism is welcomed by Madison, who will continue to face competition in the fall. Jerell Norton, who has missed most of the spring with a hamstring injury, will contend for a starting spot.

But Madison is determined to hold onto his status as a starter. If he does, Arkansas might not need any more comparisons to former cornerbacks when it describes Madison.

"Chris Houston is a great corner, if that's what they call me," Madison said. "It's a great compliment. ... But I'll be Isaac Madison."

Isaac Madison

Class: Sophomore

Position: Cornerback

Height: 6-foot

Weight: 181 pounds

Hometown: Dallas

Notables: Played in a reserve role as a freshman, but didn't record a tackle. ... Was a two-year starter at Carter High in Dallas. ... Rated as the No. 51 prospect in the Dallas metro area by the Dallas Morning News in 2007. ... Chose Arkansas over Oklahoma State and Rice.

Hawgs Daily Top Stories