NORMAN, Okla. - Oklahoma director of sports enhancement Jerry Schmidt has trained four Heisman Trophy winners during an 18-year career.
That distinguished list comprises OU's Jason White, Danny Wuerffel of Florida, Tim Brown of Notre Dame and particularly significant -- former Oklahoma State running back Barry Sanders.
Schmidt says that none of them, including Sanders, compares physically to the Sooners' Adrian Peterson.
"I consider [Sanders] to be one of the best running backs to ever come out," Schmidt said. "But just based on the talent Adrian has and the way he recovers [he is unique].
"Because as the game goes on and everybody else is wearing down, it doesn't seem like he is wearing down even though he's taking hits. Adrian trains his body, and it's very important to him. People don't realize that, but the team does, because the guy is there early and working at a high level -- every day."
That's as close as you'll get to scientific corroboration that Peterson's long-standing nickname of "AD," i.e. All Day, has physical foundation. His numbers from his freshman season speak for themselves.
The first freshman ever to finish second in Heisman voting and a consensus All-American, Peterson ran for 1,925 yards on 339 carries, both NCAA freshman records. Seventy-one percent (1,365 yards) were gained after initial contact. Of 1,672 yards racked up in 11 regular-season games, Peterson gained 1,076 of them in second halves.
And despite the loss of more than a dozen players key to the surge to consecutive BCS national championship games, the Sooners are prominent in preseason Top 10 lists simply because of the presence of Peterson.
Though he's been held out of some August drills because of a tight hamstring, Peterson appears fully recovered from off-season shoulder surgery, weighing about 215 pounds, with a desire to play at 220.
"He's bigger, stronger, faster," OU coach Bob Stoops said.
Peterson says he is unconcerned with the pressure of following last season's act.
"I am just going to go out there and run the ball hard and play hard like I always have done," Peterson said. "You may see a little bit of difference, but basically it will be the same style as last year -- north and south."
That might be good enough. But those around him expect more.
"Last year at the beginning of the season he didn't even know all the plays, and he still gained 100 yards a game," offensive lineman Davin Joseph pointed out. "He was a very young guy going against grown men. It's pretty tough being in that role, and he adjusted so well. That's what impressed me.
"Coming into this year, he should be that much better. I can't wait to see what he does myself."
Ideally, opposing defenses will have more to deal with than last season's repertoire.
"We'd like to get him more involved in our passing game," offensive coordinator Chuck Long said. "He needs some work in that department as far as working his hands and getting some catches, but we'll see how that goes. It's certainly something we want to do and is a focus for us this training camp."
Peterson concedes receiving is an area he's concentrating on improving.
He caught only five passes for 12 yards last season. He has also worked on asserting himself within the team.
"With my shoulder being injured," he said, "it made me realize a lot of things. I have had a more positive attitude going into workouts, and I don't take things for granted. I have worked even harder this summer to get my body ready to play and help prevent injuries like this from happening again.
"I am starting to realize that a lot of guys look up to me. Older guys and even younger guys are asking me questions and ask me about how to handle situations. I'm young, but that leadership role has been put on me, so I need to live up to it."
Living up to expectations is nothing new.
"The way he came up here and competed, backed up everything he said out of high school and lived up to the hype -- that takes someone special," receiver Travis Wilson said. "As far as this year goes, expect anything from him. Because you know it's going to be great, whatever it is."
Adrian Peterson's 1,925 rushing yards were the most ever by a college freshman. What's in store this season? A chronological look at how some backs fared as freshmen and sophomores.
Tony Dorsett, Pittsburgh
Earl Campbell, Texas
Herschel Walker, Georgia
Bo Jackson, Auburn
Marshall Faulk, San Diego State
Ricky Williams, Texas
Ron Dayne, Wisconsin
Originally printed in the Star-Telegraph