After exploding on the national scene as a freshman (including Rivals.com National Freshman of the Year honors), Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson struggled through an injury-plagued 2005.
He suffered a high ankle sprain against Kansas State in the Sooners' fourth game of the season and carried only eight times for 6 yards in OU's next three games.
"It was painful not being able to go out there and go to war with my team," Peterson said recently on a conference call with national media. "Watching is not something I like to do. It was hard for me. But it's all part of the game."
Sooners coach Bob Stoops said Peterson handled the situation admirably.
"I appreciated how many times he felt like trying to come back," Stoops said. "He wanted to be out there. He has a great toughness.
"He was not concerned about being at three-quarter speed. His thought was, 'If I can go, I want to go, I want to help the team.' He was always positive, trying to help guys on the sideline."
Peterson did bounce back with a vengeance, posting 706 yards on 128 carries in the Sooners' final five games to finish with 1,104 yards. Still, it was a far cry from the 1,925 yards Peterson had as a freshman.
"He may not have gotten fully back to what he's able to do," Stoops said. "But in the end he fought through the injury and was productive in the second half of the season."
Peterson said he has bulked up to 223 pounds and feels comfortable with the added weight. The Oklahoma football Web site listed him at 210 last season.
He'll be running behind a revamped offensive line that was much maligned last season. OU also has a new offensive coordinator, Kevin Wilson, who has spent the past four seasons as the Sooners' O-line coach and running game coordinator.
"I'm very excited about our new coordinator," Peterson said. "There aren't too many things I don't like. He's adding things and we're learning. There's not much to complain about."
The offensive line has added a couple of junior college transfers who could play immediately. Stoops' hope is for Wilson's scheme to be able to pass effectively to take some pressure off Peterson and the running game.
"It was obvious even a year ago once we started to be a little more productive throwing the football, less people at line of scrimmage, things opened up for AP," Stoops said. "We've gotta start from Day One having a good passing game and that will help our offense. We want to be balanced. We're not concerned about being 50-50 run/pass, we just want to do it well when we do it."