SEC's best backfield ever
Darren McFadden, Felix Jones and a third player who appeared on the cover of Madden.
How’s that for the SEC’s best backfield ever?
During their final two seasons at Arkansas, McFadden, Jones and Peyton Hillis combined for 7,503 yards from scrimmage and 59 total touchdowns, leading the Razorbacks to an SEC Western Division title and 18 wins during that span as the nation’s most feared collection of ballcarriers on a single offense.
SEC coordinators struggled to come up with plans to combat such a dominant, run-heavy attack that dissected defenses thanks to Gus Malzahn’s secret weapon — his own interpretation of Bill Snyder’s direct snap Wildcat formation, appropriately nicknamed the ‘Wildhog’ in Fayetteville.
With McFadden as the faciliator, Malzahn gave him the freedom of following Hillis’ lead through the hole, handing off to Jones or even dropping back to throw against bewildered defenses.
Only West Virginia, led by Heisman finalists Pat White and Steve Slaton, and triple option-geared Navy tallied more yards on the ground than the Razorbacks’ grand total of 6,924 during the 2006 and 2007 seasons. Only four teams in SEC history, including Malzahn’s league champion 2013 Auburn offense, has accumulated more single-season rushing yards than the 2007 school record-setting Arkansas backfield.
Arkansas 2007 backfield
- Darren McFadden, Jr.: 1,830 yards, 16 TD, Doak Walker Award, All-American, 1st round pick
- Felix Jones, Jr.: 1,162 yards, 11 TD, All-American, 1st round pick
- Peyton Hillis, Sr.: 347 yards, 2 TD as primary blocking fullback, 7th round pick
Nearly a decade later when offensive tempo has reached a fever pitch, McFadden and Jones remain one of the deadliest 1-2 punches in SEC history as one of the quickest tandems to ever appear in the Western Division. Both players had track speed and starred in the return game as well.
McFadden is the league’s best of his era at the running back position, but it was Jones who gave Arkansas a game-breaking element on special teams. He returned four kickoffs for touchdowns during his tenure to go along with a program-best 7.9 yards per touch average on offense.
McFadden was the dynamic three-down back, carrying the Razorbacks’ rushing attack at times with the most attempts in the SEC and Top 10 nationally during the 2006 and 2007 campaigns. His wheels were well-worn as a two-time Heisman runner-up by the time he was taken by the Oakland Raiders fourth overall in 2008.
Last season was the first time in McFadden’s NFL career he stayed healthy for the duration. He signed a two-year deal in March with Dallas, the same franchise that selected Jones with their 2008 first-round pick.
In February, Hillis was released by the Giants. His best professional season came in 2010 when he rushed for 1,177 yards as Cleveland’s featured back.