MULE': McFadden's the One

The mail arrived about the same time, fittingly enough, as Darren McFadden arrived last week in Baton Rouge.

It's that time of year and in a cluster of bills was the wide envelope from Deloitte & Touche LLP – the Heisman Trophy ballot!

Filling it out is always a dilemma. We're supposed to vote for the best college football player in America. But how do you determine that? There are always a select few candidates at high-profile colleges and who have well-oiled publicity machines working in their behalf. But really, the best college player in America, which translates to me as the guy who means the most to his team, not necessarily the best pro prospect, could be an obscure offensive tackle at St. Olaf in Minnesota.

Every year voting seems to get more and more difficult because as we get older we get more and more consciousness that we might be omitting someone who deserves consideration.

Not this year, or last. By every criteriron, McFadden is the best player I can conceive. His performance for Arkansas against LSU was a statement in itself – rushing for 206 yards and three touchdowns, passing for 34 yards and another touchdown in an upset of the top-ranked Tigers. That pushed his season-rushing total to an eye-catching 1,725 yards.

LSU coach Les Miles put it succinctly: "It was hard for us to tackle that guy!''

I'll say.

The thing to remember is this: McFadden was the Heisman runner-up a year ago when he ran for 1,647 yards – and he's having a better season in 2007.

Razorback coach Houston Nutt, whose job McFadden may have saved with his heroics against LSU, said, "It's not right for his name not to be mentioned as No. 1 right now. He blocks. He catches. He quarterbacks. He throws. He reads. He runs the ball with passion and determination, and he really deserves a look.''

Agreed.

For the sake of full disclosure, McFadden gets my first-place vote, and my third-place choice is Matt Forte' of Tulane (as anyone meant more than the nation's leading rusher on a team that has no other offensive weapon?)

It's the second-place vote that's really tough. Should it go to Florida's Tim Tebow, Missouri's Chase Daniels, or West Virginia's Pat White?

Or to some obscure offensive tackle at St. Olaf?

* * *

You hate to see anyone in dire straits, but this weekend was especially satisfying because of coach firings.

The dismissal of Bill Callahan at Nebraska was enjoyable because of the arrogance that brought him to Lincoln in the first place. Remember when then-AD Steve Pederson fired Frank Solich for going 9-3, then saying he wasn't going to turn over the Big 12 to the likes of Texas and Oklahoma. Well, he got the change he wanted – and it cost him his job and the ultimate humiliation of Callahan, who rid the program of any of its traditions and kept former coaches and players at arms-length distance. Then he coached the Cornhuskers to a 27-22 record and so much as a sniff at a conference title at a school that won five national championships since 1962.

There was also the firing of Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron. His predecessor David Cutcliffe gave the Rebels more wins (44-29) than their talent indicated. But they let him go when he wouldn't fire his assistants and Chancellor Robert Khayat said Ole Miss "wouldn't settle for mediocrity." So they brought in Orgeron – and an eventual 10-25 record.

Then there is the justice meted out to Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione, who resigned just one step ahead of the axe. Franchione, remember, talked his players into staying at Alabama when they could have transferred because of impending NCAA probation. Then, given the opportunity, he bolted for College Station when the job opened – without even talking to the players he recruited.

Some weekends are better than others. This was one of the real good ones.

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Marty Mule' can be reached at MJM981@Bellsouth.net


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