Rivals100.com is proud to announce a new feature called The Coaches Corner.
Here former Texas A&M linebacker coach Alan Weddell will scout some of the top players in the Lone Star State and take a look at their ranking, their ability and what makes them special from a college coach's perspective.
This first edition takes a look at the nation's No.1 player, Adrian Peterson, of Palestine, Texas. As most coaches prepare for their upcoming game (tight, irritable and working on their second or third ulcer) one of the big advantage of being retired is that I get to choose which game I want to go see and do not have any NCAA restrictions to hinder me. That is how it has been this fall, seeing a high school game on Friday night and a college game the following day. What a life a fan has if one just sits back and enjoys it.
My travels brought me to Jacksonville, Texas, to watch a then-undefeated Palestine team take on a a winless Jacksonville Indian squad at the "Tomato Bowl" in Jacksonville.
Although it was a very tight and exciting game throughout, the main reason I chose this game was to check out all the fuss about a Palestine tailback named Adrian Peterson, who some claim might be the best running back to come out of Texas in a couple of decades.
I had seen Adrian last year on tape during his junior year. I must admit that I had been very impressed with everything the tape had to show and I agreed with other members of the A&M staff that this kid might be a franchise player and top on our 2004 recruiting list. Since that time I had read a lot about Peterson but had not seen any tape nor witnessed one of his first five games.
Well the two and a half hour trip was well worth my time.
I had thought that Super Man wore a red cape and a big S on his chest. It did not take long to realize that Superman's favorite color is Maroon, as in Palestine colors, and had a big number 28 on both his chest and back.
This young man possesses some very outstanding qualities. He has very good size, 6-2ish, a little over 200 pounds, with room to grow. A thoroughbred at the Kentucky Derby could not look as good. One spots Peterson quickly and knows that this kid can be special.
Then he touches the ball.
The two biggest assets that he possesses from a physical aspect is his vision of the hole and his tremendous acceleration before the hole can close. After he gets through the hole it becomes a footrace that he will almost always win.
He does a very good job of setting up his blocks down field and is hard to tackle one on one by a high school level player.
Another top-notch asset are his really quick feet. He can cut on a dime and can do so both in traffic and the open field. He gained 174 yards for the evening, scored a touchdown and set up a couple more.
Most of his carries were in the second half since an undisclosed breathing problem limited his play in the first half. Obviously he was not himself the first half and it limited his team's success without him.
He showed good vision on the first drive on a counter play and outstanding speed on the sweep. His biggest run of the evening was a 70-plus yard run in which he reversed his field after his blocking broke down on the sweep and ran around the other end. Breaking tackles and using downfield blocks he was finally herded out of bounds by a host of opponent tacklers at the three yard line.
Later in the game he lowered his shoulder in the open field and ran over a defensive back, showing toughness necessary in the next level.
Adrian seemed to run a little high between tackles opening himself up to some vicious licks from opposing linebackers and/or linemen. This has not been a factor at the high school level because of his vision and ability to avoid the big hit.
However, on the college level against some great defensive linemen and athletic, quick linebackers, he will need to learn to run behind his pads in order to protect himself and last the season.
His speed advantage at the high school level gives him the ability to reverse his field when big yardage on a sweep is not there and make positive yardage by simply outrunning the opposition.
He almost gives up on a play too early in order to try the reverse field tactic, which because of his superior speed on the high school level does work. However on the college level, his speed advantage will not be a prevalent and defenses will take better angles, so Peterson must have/learn patients and take what the play gives him. Every play is not a touchdown and sometimes that three to four yard gain will set up the long run.
His blocking was suspect on sprint out passes, seeming to be satisfied with just getting in the way rather than cutting the contain player. He has the body to become a very good blocker, something he will need to learn to do in a college one back set.
As to his breathing difficulty, which I was told was not the first time this has happened, I asked some of his friends in the stands and they told me that he gets really nervous before the game and actually hyperventilated during the early part of the contest (he was blowing in a paper sack, confirming what was happening).
Peterson will need to learn to relax, have fun and control his nervousness, since as a franchise player he will be needed four full quarters. The people (both young and old) in the stands along with one of his coaches told me what a tremendous person Adrian was.
Although clearly a superstar, he is very team oriented and not selfish with the offense. His mannerism with his teammates, both before and during the game showed good leadership traits although he seemed rather quiet rather than a rah-rah leader.
In summary, Adrian Peterson has a great future in front of him.
He is as good a back as I have seen. He is well deserving of his rating of the top high school player in the country. He will be able to name the school he attends next year and if that team can surround him with top players, the sky is the limit both for the team and Peterson.
About Weddell: Before joining the Texas A&M staff in 1998 and retiring this past football season, Weddell led La Marque to three consecutive Class 4A state championships (1995-97) and five straight state title games.
In eight seasons at La Marque (south of Houston), Weddell compiled a sparkling 103-13 (.818) record while winning six district crowns. In 16 seasons as a head coach at La Marque and Victoria, Weddell posted a record of 150-45-1. Before his success with the La Marque program, Weddell took over a 0-10 doormat at Victoria High School in 1982 and turned the Stingarees into a 10-0 district champion.
Weddell earned a variety of Coach of the Year honors during his stay at La Marque including: District Coach of the Year (1991-96) and the Nike Coach of the Year (1996). As a collegiate player, Weddell was an offensive lineman on Darrell Royal's 1970 national champion Texas Longhorn football team.