There was McFadden, lined up as a tailback in the I-formation and making several dazzling runs including one in which he cut inside before quickly darting left and turning the corner for a huge gain. A few plays later, he slipped out of the backfield on a pass play and drifted toward the right sidelines before breaking downfield in a full sprint with a linebacker trailing behind. Then McFadden lined up as a wide receiver, something he did frequently in college.
But it was the 10-minute session near the south end zone where McFadden worked with an assistant coach that drew the most attention. While the rest of the players went through individual drills, McFadden — who threw seven touchdowns in his final two seasons at Arkansas — practiced taking the snap directly from center. .
Oakland linebacker Thomas Howard, who had stopped by the team's facilities to take care of some personal business, just shook his head. .
"The future's looking nice," Howard said after watching McFadden put on an impressive display that included hauling in a nice one-handed sideline catch and juking one teammate onto the turf with a shifty move. "Real nice." .
For Al Davis' sake Thomas better be right. .
A year after drafting their franchise quarterback with the first overall pick, the Raiders selected a potential franchise running back in McFadden with the fourth overall pick in the 2008 draft. And in pairing the two together in the same offense Davis is banking the offensive problems that have plagued his team since 2002 will end. .
"Speaking for myself I knew months ago that this was the guy that we had to have and we had to figure out a way to get him," Oakland head coach Lane Kiffin said. "He just looks so much quicker than everybody around him. He really is gliding, but as you watch the film and you see him, he's running by people and it doesn't look like it's really hard to do." .
McFadden made things look extremely easy during his three years at Arkansas. He broke the school's freshman rushing record with 1,113 yards and 11 touchdowns, joining Herschel Walker as the only two freshmen in SEC history to rush for over 1,000 yards. .
The following year McFadden upped his total to 1,714 yards despite missing the first game with a toe injury, then followed that up with a school-record 1,830 yards and 17 touchdowns. .
By the time he declared himself eligible for the draft, McFadden had broken the school's career rushing record, was a two-time winner of the Doak Walker award given out annually to the nation's top running back, and twice finished runner-up in the Heisman Trophy voting. .
Still, there were several people who doubted whether Oakland even needed McFadden when the team had more pressing needs along the defensive line. They pointed to the Raiders poor run defense and McFadden's history of fumbling (23 in college). .
But Davis made the call to bypass LSU's Glenn Dorsey — the best defensive lineman available and arguably the best to come out of college in a few years — and instead drafted McFadden despite having a stable full of running backs already on the roster. .
Even McFadden was caught off guard when the Raiders picked him. .
"Yeah it surprised me," he said. "But I feel like after talking with the coaching staff that they were missing the big-play ability and that was something I could help with." .
The hope in Oakland, of course, is that McFadden can have the same type of impact on the Raiders that Adrian Peterson did on the Vikings last year when he won Rookie of the Year honors and provided weekly highlight-reel runs. .
Many have compared the two young running backs, and even McFadden admits there are similarities.
"We're both big, fast guys," McFadden said. "He's probably a little more physical than I am but as far as just natural play-making and talent, I feel like I have an edge on any running back. I'm not saying it to be cocky or anything but I feel like I'm very versatile and I can play a lot of different positions." .
The Raiders tested that theory during their rookie mini-camp. .
McFadden lined up in the backfield and ran the ball effectively inside and outside. On one play he dipped his right shoulder and appeared ready to cut inside before quickly changing direction and heading outside, leaving a teammate grasping at grass. .
The Raiders also had him come out of the backfield as a receiver and line up wide at the line of scrimmage. But it was what he did away from the team drills that caused the most curiosity — taking direct snaps from center from an assistant coach. .
McFadden was very successful throwing the ball during his final two seasons at Arkansas and the idea of using him in a similar capacity with the Raiders has Kiffin intrigued. .
"That's why we're looking at it," Kiffin said. "It's something he brings to the table that's very unusual so we'll always explore everything. He looked real comfortable in a number of different things that we did with him. He's picking up things real well." .
McFadden had to be a quick learner while growing up one of 12 siblings and living with a mother who was a drug addict. The temptations to fail were great, particularly in the neighborhood he grew up in, and although his mother eventually got clean the potential for trouble was everywhere. .
Yet McFadden refused to stray. Though there were a few minor incidents in which he was involved in, including when he broke a toe while fighting outside a nightclub and wound up missing the season-opener in 2006, McFadden has maintained a low profile. .
The Raiders were convinced enough, to the point that McFadden's explanation wound up being a selling point. .
"What was very important to me the first time I sat down with him, I wanted to know was he going to make excuses for them or was he going to be accountable for them," Kiffin said. "And he says, ‘Those are situations that I should have made a better decision. I've learned from them now and I am going to make better decisions now.' As opposed to, ‘This is why I did it because I had to protect my brother or whatever the situation is. He realizes that and we had another conversation this morning about that myself and Darren again just to make sure. ‘Darren, if you're there when we go, I need this, this and this. And you need to understand this is how you need to be.' He's right on the same page and he understands it as well."
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