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OU's Peterson hoping to step up receiving game

4/8/2006 - Oklahoma Sooners

NORMAN, Okla. -- Being a bit one-dimensional got Adrian
Peterson pretty far. Adding other threats to his game could make
him an even bigger star.
Peterson ran for an NCAA freshman record 1,925 yards and emerged
on the national scene with a second-place finish in the Heisman
Trophy voting in Oklahoma's run to the BCS title game in 2004. He
struggled with an ankle injury last season and was limited to 1,108
rushing yards.
But while rushing for more than 3,000 yards in his first two
seasons, Peterson has only 14 receptions for 62 yards in his
college career.
"I can catch the ball," Peterson said after Saturday's
Red-White spring game. "You've got to throw it to me."
Peterson had three catches for 31 yards in the scrimmage. That
might not sound like much, but consider this: His biggest receiving
game to this point was four catches for 18 yards last year at UCLA.
It's the only time he's ever caught more than two passes in his 22
college games.
Kevin Wilson, who took over as offensive coordinator when Chuck
Long became San Diego State's head coach in December, said the
Sooners are looking for smart ways to be more aggressive. One way
would be getting Peterson the ball on short, low-risk passes.
"We never got to it maybe as much as we should a year ago,"
Wilson said. "He's running through loaded boxes. When you get him
out to the perimeter, there's not five, six or seven arm tackles.
There's one arm tackle.
During the scrimmage, Peterson caught two early screen passes
and then picked up 9 yards on a swing pass to the right side.
"We're going to get him the ball more in the passing game this
year. We have him coming out of the backfield a lot where he's
maybe the second or third read, depending on what they do," said
quarterback Rhett Bomar, who completed 11 of 22 passes for 173
yards, one touchdown and one interception.
"We'll dump it down to him if something's there and let him
make a play in the open field."
Peterson fell behind in the passing game because injuries
limited him in the fall before his freshman season and kept him out
of spring camp last year. He was frequently replaced by other
tailbacks on passing downs.
"He hasn't been through any springs and this one I think he
wanted to improve on being a pass-catcher out of the backfield and
blocking," Bomar said.
Instead of wearing a blue jersey like Bomar and backup
quarterback Joey Halzle, Peterson wore a red jersey with blue
numbers. Defenders still weren't allowed to tackle him. He carried
the ball only five times for 2 yards, and was ruled down at the
first sign of contact.
"One of those first two screens, he might of taken it a long
way if he doesn't have those blue numbers," Bomar said. "A touch
or a little hand tackle isn't going to tackle Adrian."
To a certain extent, Wilson said the Sooners -- coming off an 8-4
season that concluded with an upset of Oregon in the Holiday Bowl --
are still experimenting to see how Peterson can handle an increased
role in the passing game.
"I think he catches the ball adequately good. He's not great at
it," Wilson said. "We've challenged him to be a more complete
player. He knows at the next level someday that's important to
protect the quarterback and to be a guy that can catch the ball. I
think he's working at it. He has a chance to be a good
route-runner. We'll see."
Regardless, the Sooners expect to have Peterson running at full
strength again -- and he's already shown what he can do just taking
handoffs.
"Everybody knows he's a great player," Bomar said. "He's 100
percent healthy right now and he's going to be dangerous."

Notes
Using a contrived scoring system awarding points for
turnovers, first downs and other plays, the defense outscored the
offense 41-30. ... Mike Knall, who became the Sooners' top punter
when starter Cody Freeby was dismissed this week, averaged 37.4
yards on eight punts. ... Paul Thompson, a converted quarterback,
led all receivers with four catches for 82 yards. ... Halzle threw
three interceptions, two to Nic Harris, and has seven total in the
last two scrimmages. ... On consecutive plays in the fourth
quarter, CB Reggie Smith fumbled a punt, had an interception
overturned by a pass interference call, then picked off another
Bomar pass.