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Just The Sports: He Of The Broken Collar Bone

Just The Sports

Friday, November 10, 2006

He Of The Broken Collar Bone

There is no college running back who has more national prominence than University of Oklahoma junior Adrian Peterson, who is currently recuperating from a broken collar bone. His exploits on the field as a freshman sparked useless debate about the NFL's draft eligibility rules and since then he has never been far from the thoughts of rabid college football fans. Also, it has been assumed that when Peterson does declare for the NFL draft he will be the first running back chosen. Therefore, Peterson has to be one of the most productive running backs in college football. He just has to.

Not quite. Even though Adrian Peterson possesses prototypical size and speed for a running back, his college numbers are really no better than Marshawn Lynch's and even Mike Hart has been a better running back than Peterson in at least one category. For his three years as a starting running back (minus four games in his sophomore year when he was injured), Peterson has a 50.1% success rate; Mike Hart's is 55.4% and Marshawn Lynch has a 55.8% success rate. As far as extra yards per successful run, Peterson's 6.91 extra yards per is behind Lynch's 7.96 but ahead of Hart's 4.49 extra yards per. He does fail to gain 3.45 yards per failed run, higher than both Lynch's and Hart's numbers there. It would seem to appear the best running back prospect has not necessarily been better than two of his junior peers.

In Adrian Peterson's defense, there are plausible explanations for why his numbers lack true impressiveness. It is not surprise that his best year success rate-wise was his freshman year when he got to play in the same backfield with Jason White, who was an above-average quarterback. Since then he had to play with freshman quarterback Rhett Bomar in his sophomore season who struggled as a quarterback and this year until he was injured had to play with Paul Thompson, someone who will never be confused for an NFL-type quarterback. This means that the defenses he faced only had one person to concentrate on when trying to stop the Oklahoma offense and that was stopping Adrian Peterson from being a successful running back.

Marshawn Lynch's worst season, his sophomore one, was also the one when he had to play on a team that lacked a true passing game. His other two, when playing with two above-average quarterbacks, were both very productive. Mike Hart has never had to suffer playing alongside a quarterback who did not have a grasp on how to succeed in the college game.

Another reason to explain Peterson's lackluster numbers is that Oklahoma chose to run the ball in a lot of long-yardage situations where it is tough for even the best running back to have a successful run. Again, this goes back to the lack of quarterback passing threat and the running game being the only thing the Sooners really have faith in. Still, though, looking at these numbers makes me wonder more than I would have otherwise if Adrian Peterson is as good as everyone seems to think.

One thing is certain. If he does choose to come back to play this season, he is not as business-savvy as he should be. Someone close to him should whisper in his year that the next time he gets injured, he should at least be getting paid to do so.



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