Oklahoma star Samaje Perine uncomfortable with spotlight
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) Samaje Perine's monster freshman season has brought up some Heisman Trophy talk.
Oklahoma's star running back prefers to let everyone else talk about it.
And there's plenty to discuss. The 237-pound bruiser set the major college record with 427 yards rushing against Kansas last season. In some ways, his freshman season was better than Adrian Peterson's epic 2004 freshman campaign at Oklahoma - Perine ran for six more touchdowns and averaged nearly a yard more per carry. His season yardage total of 1,713 was the sixth-highest ever by a FBS freshman.
As expected, Perine drew a large crowd of reporters Saturday at Media Day. But he is a young man of few words, known and respected for his quiet strength and humility. When asked what it means to have his name mentioned among college football's best, he seemed uncomfortable.
''I don't listen to what the media has to say,'' he said. ''When people tell me stuff like that and I see it on Twitter, I just tune it out. I know some people in my family, they are going to be excited about it, but I have to tell them that I don't look at that stuff, so you can be happy about it, but don't show me, because I don't care.''
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said Perine handles the attention well and stays on track, using the same focus that helped him climb from third stringer last preseason to All-Conference selection.
''Really mature and humble about it,'' Stoops said. ''Samaje realizes the guys around him support him and help him. Samaje is a very wise young man and mature beyond his years in how he handles everything. I believe he's taken all this in stride. I believe he just wants to be a big part of what we're doing.''
Perine refused to offer any personal statistical goals.
''Just go out and play hard every down,'' he said.
Perine's path to making an impact likely will be different this year. Stoops hired new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley to bring back the Air Raid offense that brought Oklahoma to prominence in the previous decade. Though it might not allow Perine as many opportunities to grind opponents into submission, Riley said the running backs will touch the ball more than anyone else, and he believes Perine's skills will fit in nicely.
''I wish we had about three of him,'' Riley said. ''He's pretty good. He's a great person. He's very, very dependable. I've been impressed with his versatility. I knew coming in that he could run the ball. Everybody knows that. Seeing the kind of person that he is and seeing how smart of a player he is and how versatile he is, it shows you why he's the kind of player he is.''
Perine still looks powerful, but he has dropped between 10 and 15 pounds since last season.
''That was something that I wanted to do,'' he said. ''I came in and I played at 248 last year, and I didn't feel fast, so I just felt like I needed to drop weight. I told Smitty (strength coach Jerry Schmidt) about it, and he was all for it.''
Perine's Heisman chances could be derailed by his teammates. Joe Mixon, one of the nation's top recruits as a high school senior, is back. He was expected to contend for the starting job last year, but he was suspended all of last season after punching a woman. Alex Ross, a preseason All-Conference return man, is back, and freshman Rodney Anderson has the coaching staff excited.
''With the amount of running backs that we have, I think it's going to be more evenly spread out than it was last year,'' Perine said. ''I'm excited for that because when you have two or three guys who have pretty much the same capability, that's going to wear out defenses. It's going to be a good thing for us, but not for them.''
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP