Vols vs. Hogs means Superman vs. Batman

Saturday's contest between Arkansas and Tennessee won't only bring together two of the nation's most colorful college football programs, it also pits a pair of comic book heroes in Ahmad "Batman" Carroll vs. Kelley "Superman" Washington.

Yes, it's true Washington has proclaimed himself "The Future" in national interviews prior to the Florida game, but that was before his penchant for self-promotion became something of a dividing point with the team. Now Washington is as self-effacing and humble as Clark Kent himself, and he has always the superb qualities of Superman.

We're talking about super size (6-4, 225), super strength (415-pound bench), super speed (4.32), super stats (14 catches for 300 yards and one touchdown in two games) and supercool (he elevates the TD celebration into an art form). Washington is also able to leap tall buildings in a single bound with a 38-inch vertical and he logs more hang time than Pee Wee Herman at zero gravity. And you talk about arm strength, Washington is a missile launcher disguised as a linebacker.

Like Superman and kryptonite, Kelley Washington's only apparent weakness is a curve ball. Otherwise he would have already signed his multimillion dollar Major League Baseball contract and Tennessee would be desperately seeking a No. 1 and No. 2 wide receivers.

At 5-11, 190, with a 315-bench Batman Carroll isn't exactly superhuman, but neither is his comic book namesake who relied on skills, stealth, cunning and gadgets. Carroll, who actually acquired the Marvel Comics moniker for his daring dives over the line of scrimmage in youth football, has all of those tools along with a super dose of confidence.

Additionally, Carroll has speed the equal of Washington's and he believes he's up to the challenge of containing Superman one-on-one.

"He's saying he's the No. 1 receiver in the nation," Carroll said in a story published by the Arkansas-Democrat today. "If I do what I'm supposed to do, maybe I'll be the No. 1 cornerback in the country."

Last season stormy weather conditions kept the match-up from fully manifesting. Both were starting that rainy night in Fayetteville as true freshmen, but Washington was a 22 year-old freshman who had only played one game in four-plus years.

With Donte Stallworth out with a wrist fracture, Washington stepped into the No. 1 role and relying on raw athletic ability alone caught six passes for 96 yards. He has since augmented his athleticism with experience and a better understanding of wide receiver. (He was an option QB in high school).

Carroll wasn't left in man coverage without help last season as much as he is now. Carroll has informed Arkansas defensive coordinator Dave Wommack that he won't require help to shut down Washington, but even Batman needed a little help from Robin and Alfred on occasion.

"We told (Wommack) at the beginning of the year no matter who it is we're going to cover them one-on-one," Carroll stated in the article. "Every wide receiver can be covered one-on-one, we're going in with that mentality."

No doubt Washington is equally confident any man coverage can be beaten. That sets the stage for a battle that will be intensely scrutinized and may hold the key to victory.

Ironically, these two worthy adversaries might well have been teammates. Carroll seriously considered the Vols at one point and was particularly interested in the track program.

"When I went to Tennessee I saw Leonard Scott had run about a 10.08 and I told the track coach at Tennessee that I was going to break that record," Carroll related in a prior interview with this writer. "I ran a 10.41 at Tennessee during the heats and coach Phil Fulmer came to see me when I ran a 10.38 later. I think that impressed him and he said they "were going to be recruiting me."

Tennessee did recruit Carroll, who went to Douglas High School in Atlanta, before he landed in Fayetteville. Ultimately, Carroll chose Arkansas over a long list of suitors and he cited the reception he received on his official visit to Arkansas as a primary reason. It seems some students and university employees greeted him wearing Batman costumes.

Carroll did say he liked his visit to Knoxville and was particularly impressed with Neyland Stadium. This will be his only chance to play in Neyland as the annual series between Arkansas and Tennessee goes into rotation next year.

"They've got the second largest stadium in college football so I like that," Carroll said of Neyland Stadium. "I like that orange and white end zone, too. I could see myself diving into that end zone."

Batman may still get that chance on Saturday night under the lights before 107,000 fans and a national TV audience.

But there's always the chance that dive to pay dirt could land at Superman's feet.

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