If you were a defensive coordinator, any one of the three 2006 Doak Walker Award finalists would give you a lot of sleepless nights trying to figure out how to stop them. Mike Hart of Michigan, Darren McFadden of Arkansas and Steve Slaton of West Virginia are the finalists in consideration for this prestigious award.

Mike Hart was a semifinalist for the award in 2005. The junior running back compiled 1,515 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns in 12 games this season, and ranks fourth nationally in total rushing yards. He has averaged more rushing yards per game (122.6) than any back in University of Michigan history.

Hart’s signature game came against arch-rival Ohio State on Nov. 18. He picked up 142 yards on 23 carries (6.2 average) and three touchdowns. In his 32-game career at Michigan, Hart has rushed for 3,632 yards and 27 TDs, and he has 57 receptions for 518 yards and two touchdowns.

Darren McFadden has rushed for 1,558 yards and 14 TDs on 265 carries in 13 games this season. The strong, blazing-fast sophomore running back leads the SEC in total rushing yards and yards per game and has scored touchdowns rushing, receiving and passing in 2006. McFadden is just the third back in Arkansas history to have consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons.

McFadden rushed for a personal-best 219 yards and two TDs on 25 carries (8.8 average) in a Razorback win at South Carolina on Nov. 4. His other signature game this year came on Nov. 24 against the stingy LSU Tigers defense when he amassed 182 yards on 21 rushes (8.7 average) and two TDs.

Steve Slaton is another sophomore speed back who creates fits for anyone trying to defense him. He has hauled the rock 245 times this season, accumulating 1,733 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also has 25 receptions good for 340 yards and two TDs and leads the nation with 187 all-purpose yards per game. Slaton has rushed for over 100 yards in 14 of his 17 career starts.

Slaton’s signature game this season came in a Mountaineer win at Pitt on Nov. 16. He rushed 23 times for 215 yards (9.3 average) and two TDs, and caught six passes for 130 yards (21.7 average) and two more TDs.

This year’s Doak Walker Award is truly up for grabs. The voters really can’t go wrong casting their ballot for any one of these three finalists.

The Doak Walker Award recognizes the nation’s premier running back for accomplishments on the field, achievement in the classroom and citizenship in the community. The Doak is now in its 17th year and it is the only major collegiate football award that requires all candidates to be in good academic standing and on schedule to graduate. The most recent honorees include Reggie Bush, Cedric Benson, Chris Perry, Larry Johnson, LaDainian Tomlinson and Luke Staley.

The winner of the Doak Walker Award will be announced on ESPN’s Home Depot College Football Awards Show on Thursday, Dec. 7.