Oklahoma fans who are disappointed that Adrian Peterson will never win the Heisman Trophy shouldn't give up hope just yet. Sooners coach Bob Stoops believes that it's not a foregone conclusion that the junior tailback will forego his senior season and apply to the NFL for inclusion in the 2007 draft.

"I don't think it's likely," Stoops said of the possibility that Peterson will stay at Oklahoma. "But Adrian is going to do what he wants to do, not what people are telling him to do."

Peterson's regular season ended on Oct. 14 when he landed awkwardly on a spill into the end zone against Iowa State and suffered a broken collarbone. He has rushed for 935 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. He remains only 150 yards from breaking the school career rushing record set by Billy Sims.

During his rehabilitation, Peterson has remained a visible leader on a young team. He has enjoyed it enough that Stoops believes it may play a role in Peterson's decision.

"To see him on the sideline in a leadership role with those young players," Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione said, "you could tell he enjoyed it."

Doctors cleared Peterson to play in the Big 12 Championship Game, Stoops said, but the chance of reinjury remained higher than Stoops and Peterson liked. The extra month without contact will leave him in good shape for the Fiesta Bowl. Peterson will practice for the Jan. 1 game against Boise State. Stoops said that Peterson will not wear a do-not-hit colored jersey.

"We don't do a lot of that [full contact in practice]," Stoops said. With a smile, he added, "No one really wants to hit him, anyway."

Peterson, at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, is an imposing physical presence. It will be interesting to see how the NFL assesses the fact that he has missed sizable portions of the last two seasons because of injury (he severely sprained an ankle in 2005). Stoops has not begun to canvass NFL personnel directors about where they think Peterson would be drafted. After the bowl game, with those results in hand, Stoops will sit down with Peterson to discuss whether he should turn pro. Ivan Maisel December 6, 2006