Peterson dreams of monster season

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Oklahoma running back has his eyes set on 2,200 yards.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- If Adrian Peterson accomplishes his goal this season, he'll not only be the most prolific running back in Oklahoma history. He'll put himself in a place where precious few college rushers have ever been.

The Heisman runner-up as a freshman in 2004, Peterson disclosed Wednesday that he has a number in mind that he'd like to surpass for his rushing total this season: 2,200 yards.

"My dad told me to reach for the moon. If you fall short, you'll still be amongst the stars. That's what I do. I set my goals high," Peterson said on the final day of the Big 12's annual media days. "I'm going after it. If I fall short, hopefully I'll still be in that range among the stars. That's how I look at it."

Peterson burst onto the scene two years ago, when he ran for an NCAA freshman record 1,925 yards on 339 carries, the most in the nation. He had 1,108 yards as a sophomore last season, when he missed two games and was limited in two others because of injuries.

He enters this season 1,085 yards behind Oklahoma's career rushing leader, Billy Sims. Sims had 4,118 yards for the Sooners between 1975 and 1979. Peterson, who is eighth on the school's rushing list, has 3,033 yards in two seasons. His freshman total is the school's season record.

His return to health is perhaps the main reason publications have put Oklahoma as high as No. 1 in their preseason rankings. Even with a new offensive coordinator and a maturing young quarterback in Rhett Bomar, Peterson remains Oklahoma's go-to guy.

"That's the focal point where it all begins," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said, "and it's been that way for the last two years."

Surrounded by reporters and taking occasional sips from a glass of water, Peterson talked about any number of topics: his father's release from a federal halfway house, how he cheered for Texas -- his home state -- in the national title game and how he's confident his offensive line is developing enough to offer him protection.

But he hedged when asked when asked to handicap the Heisman Trophy race.

"Who would I pick? I wouldn't pick nobody right now," Peterson said.

"I don't think about the Heisman that much. It's something I would love to win," he added. "I've been wanting to win it since I was a little kid but it's not my main focus."

He also shied away when asked if -- when at the top of his game -- he is the best running back in college football.

"I'll let y'all answer that one," Peterson said.

Despite those humble answers, Peterson still made clear his desire to earn a spot among college football's elite. Only two players have ever eclipsed 2,200 yards in a single season -- Barry Sanders had 2,628 for Oklahoma State in 1988 and Marcus Allen had 2,342 for Southern California in 1981.

LaDainian Tomlinson came close in 2000, when he piled up 2,158 yards with TCU. And Troy Davis had 2,185 in 1996 for Iowa State.

Those numbers may seem small to Peterson, who ran for 2,960 yards and 32 touchdowns as a senior in high school.

"I played basketball, I ran track, I did every sport. No matter what I did, I wanted to be the best. I wanted to be the first -- if it was running sprints, lifting weights," Peterson said. "That whole attitude just carried on. That's all it is. Just having an attitude."

Considering potential extra games on Oklahoma's schedule, Peterson's goal could be within reason, if he's able to avoid injuries. He had 1,925 yards in 13 games as a freshman despite being held out of the starting lineup early in the season and seeing limited action in one game because of injury.

The Sooners have 12 regular-season games on their schedule and could play as many as 14 if they're able to reach the Big 12 championship game and a bowl.

Sanders' record-breaking total came in only 11 contests.

"I set my goals high. It's not nothing crazy or I don't feel like I'm overconfident or anything. It's how I am," Peterson said. "I guess that's why I've been successful. I set my goals high and I go after them."

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