Any short list of names up for consideration as Arkansas’ best player in the Class of 2005 is going to include Pulaski Oak Grove’s Darren McFadden.
A 6-foot, 200-pound running back with 4.4 speed, McFadden gashed defenses for 2,027 yards and 19 touchdowns as a junior en route to all-state honors and a star profile heading into next season.
“He’s in a class of his own,” Oak Grove coach John Mayes said. “He’s just a real special kid, on and off the field. On the field, he’s just an incredible athlete and a real gifted runner. He’s one of those guys who looks like he’s just gliding, but he can turn it on in a heartbeat. Some of things you see him do on film are amazing. It will look like there’s no way he’s going anywhere, like two or three guys are going to have a shot at him, and then all of the sudden he’ll hit that burst of speed and he’s gone. Nobody even touches him.
“Off the field, he’s just a great kid. He’s what every coach hopes to have. He’s very humble and conscientious and has a great work ethic. He’s got a lot of natural ability, for sure, but he never stops working whether it’s on the field or the weightroom or in the classroom.”
During his junior season, McFadden averaged almost a first down every time he carried the ball.
“Having a kid who can get you 9.9 yards per carry makes your play-calling look pretty good,” Mayes said with a laugh.
The Oak Grove mailbox is already being flooded with letters from prospective colleges. Mayes said Arkansas, Michigan, Nebraska, Iowa, Ole Miss and Memphis are among the early schools expressing interest.
The home state Razorbacks have already extended a scholarship offer.
“I’ve talked with coach Nutt a few times about Darren, and they really want him bad,” Mayes said. “I’m kind of hoping he might make up his mind early and make his commitment to the Razorbacks so he can concentrate on his senior season and not be overwhelmed by it all. Like most kids in this state, he grew up a big fan. I think they’ve got to be considered the favorite, but I’m not sure when he’ll make his decision.”