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March 22, 2006

Peterson takes part in first spring

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NORMAN, Okla. - Adrian Peterson shared a few words with coach Bob Stoops, jogged over to a pile of his belongings along the wall of Oklahoma's indoor practice facility then began walking toward the door.

So ended an entirely new experience for the Sooners' star tailback.

''It's kind of crazy. It's my third year and it's my first time being out here for spring,'' Peterson said after Oklahoma's first day of spring practice Tuesday. ''It's exciting just to get back playing. It feels pretty good to be out here running around with the guys and getting ready to get things started.''

Peterson wasn't on campus before the 2004 season, when he set an NCAA freshman record with 1,925 rushing yards and finished second in voting for the Heisman Trophy. He then missed last spring after having surgery to fix a left shoulder that had been dislocated during the previous season.

He also missed much of fall practice before his freshman season, again because he dislocated the shoulder.

''Adrian needs work. He can polish a lot of things up to become a better and better player, and he's aware of that,'' Stoops said. ''I think this can really help him. When you think of the time he has lost - spring last year, two-a-days the year before - he's playing on a lot of raw ability and I think some of this practice time can really benefit him.''

Besides just taking part in spring drills, Peterson could be pretty busy. He and Allen Patrick are the Sooners' only two healthy tailbacks following the departure of seniors Kejuan Jones and Donta Hickson and an injury to Jacob Gutierrez.

That'll be a change from other practice sessions, when Peterson has frequently been pulled to protect him from injury.

''As far as practice, I'll be in, especially right now,'' Peterson said. ''We're kind of short running backs.''

In team drills, Peterson broke through the defense untouched a few times and squirted out of bounds after one run of about 30 yards. He said he thinks the spring will give him a chance to get in a better rhythm before the season starts and to work on pass blocking. In his first two seasons, Peterson was frequently pulled in passing situations in favor of Jones, a stronger pass blocker.

''I know which part of my game I've got to improve, so now I've got the time to do that and take advantage of it,'' Peterson said.

While Peterson is back along with quarterback Rhett Bomar, much of the rest of his surroundings will be different. The Sooners must replace four offensive linemen plus their starting fullback and tight end.

''We've got a lot of young guys. I feel like they're going to come in, step up and play a big role,'' Peterson said.

The Sooners also won't have to deal with the distraction of a quarterback controversy. Last spring, Bomar was in a three-way competition with Paul Thompson and Tommy Grady. Thompson has since moved to receiver and Grady transferred.

''It's a lot different, to tell you the truth. It's a lot more relaxing, I think, for me,'' Bomar said. ''Last year being in the three-way competition, every pass, every play, every scrimmage you're pressing. Every pass was important. They looked at every pass through the whole spring. They had it jotted down, stats and everything like that.

''Coming in this spring, I'm the guy in this offense. I still go out and do my job, work hard and do everything like that but it's just a little more relaxing.''

Oklahoma, which opened last season at No. 7, fell completely out of the rankings before climbing back to No. 22 after upsetting Oregon 17-14 in the Holiday Bowl.

The Sooners' spring game is scheduled for April 8.

For more coverage of the Oklahoma Sooners, check out SoonerScoop.com.

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