Dec. 13, 2006
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - Simply by returning to practice, Adrian Peterson has lifted the spirits of his Oklahoma teammates.
Peterson, who broke his collarbone in October, will return to the lineup when the No. 7 Sooners play No. 9 Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz., on Jan. 1.
The junior tailback resumed practicing with the Sooners on Friday but hasn't spoken with reporters yet - so the Sooners spoke about him.
"He's getting more and more snaps in there," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "The players are excited to see him back in there. He's always been a great and strong team guy. The players have always appreciated how he's worked and he'll get more and more snaps leading up to it. It can only be positive."
Peterson ran for 935 yards and scored 10 touchdowns in six games. Big 12 champion Oklahoma (11-2) has won all seven of its games without Peterson, but that doesn't mean the Sooners aren't thrilled to have him back.
"It was exciting when he got back in the huddle," quarterback Paul Thompson said. "It was very obvious when he got back in the huddle. Handing the ball off to him, it was like, 'Man, AD is back.' He's hitting the holes quick. He's explosive, and on the defensive side, nobody really wanted to get in his way."
Peterson hasn't been hit in practice yet, by design.
"You don't want to go out there and just hit him and hit him a lot to prove he can (take it), because that's not making a point," Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said.
Wilson said making sure Peterson is in game shape is an issue, although linebacker Rufus Alexander said he has few doubts that Peterson - whose nickname, "AD," is short for "All Day" - will have problems with stamina.
"There's no way he's not going to get back into the flow," Alexander said.
Peterson set an NCAA Division I-A freshman record with 1,925 rushing yards in 2004 as he helped lead Oklahoma to the Bowl Championship Series title game and finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting. He's rushed for at least 100 yards in 22 of his 30 games at Oklahoma, including nine straight to start his career.
He is in fourth place on Oklahoma's all-time rushing list. He would need 150 yards against Western Athletic Conference champion Boise State (13-0) to match 1978 Heisman Trophy winner Billy Sims' total of 4,118 yards.
Stoops also criticized those who have said Peterson, a likely top pick if he enters the NFL draft, is making a mistake by returning for Oklahoma's bowl game.
"I'm not going to get into what's right or wrong. You guys have got your opinions. Write them," Stoops said. "The young man is going to do what he wants to do and he's got every right to do that. ... There are reasons why or why not. He's got his reasons ... and that's what matters."