|Georgia Tech makes the right choice at running back|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 11 September 2007 13:15|
ATLANTA (AP) - Tashard Choice and Adrian Peterson were in the same backfield for all of eight games. Imagine what would have happened if they had stayed together for three years.|
``I think we could have been one of the best tandems in college football history,'' Choice said bluntly.
Instead, he transferred from Oklahoma to Georgia Tech and found himself in the shadow of another brilliant player, receiver Calvin Johnson.
``They don't surprise me with anything they do,'' Choice said Tuesday. ``Both of them are absolute freaks.''
But now - finally - it's Choice's chance to shine. Johnson and Peterson left their respective schools a year early and were among the top picks in the NFL draft. They are now starring on Sundays, leaving Saturdays to their good friend and one-time teammate.
Choice is making every effort to seize the spotlight. He rushed for more than 100 yards in each of No. 15 Georgia Tech's first two games, extending his streak of triple-digit performances to nine in a row.
Coach Chan Gailey compares his star back to Emmitt Smith, the leading rusher in NFL history. While that may be a bit of a stretch, there's little doubt that Choice is capable of standing on his own.
``His vision is like Emmitt's,'' said Gailey, who was Smith's coach for a couple of seasons with the Dallas Cowboys. ``He's got a little bit of a different running style, but his vision and feel for the creases, knowing where everybody is and where the blocking scheme is coming from, that is very unique.''
Choice picks up bonus points for his team-first attitude. Last week, he rushed for 110 yards in the first quarter against overmatched Samford, including a career-best 73-yard touchdown.
At that point, Gailey was a bit torn. He knew that Choice could bolster his individual stats by staying in the game a little longer. Halftime, perhaps. But the coach knew it was more important to get some younger players on the field and eliminate the risk of Choice sustaining a needless injury.
When Gailey went over to break the news, he didn't even get a chance to give his reasons to Choice.
``I was going to say that I was all for the individual type of awards and things like that,'' Gailey said, ``but he stopped me and said, 'Coach, we're trying to win a championship. It's not about me and my yards and all of that stuff. You do what you think we have to do to win a championship.'''
Choice will certainly be needed more this Saturday. The Yellow Jackets (2-0) and their dominant rushing offense (fourth nationally at 324 yards per game) will make their Atlantic Coast Conference debut by hosting No. 21 Boston College.
The Eagles are off to a 2-0 start, both wins coming in the ACC, and have allowed just 29 yards a game on the ground, which also ranks fourth in the country.
Will Choice be able to keep his streak going? Will Boston College finally be the team that slows him down?
``I'm looking forward to Boston College,'' he said. ``That's going to be a good game. They've got a good defense. It's going to be another challenge.''
Choice, a native of suburban Atlanta, knows a thing or two about challenges.
He began his college career at Oklahoma, where he was redshirted his first season, then found himself competing with another talented runner. Peterson was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy as a freshman; Choice, who battled a hamstring injury, played in only eight games and settled for a mere 100 yards rushing.
Afterward, Choice transferred to his hometown school - to get away from Peterson, right?
Choice's mother sustained a foot injury that prevented her from traveling to watch her son play. The NCAA granted a waiver, allowing him to enroll at Georgia Tech without sitting out a year.
``When we played USC, they had Reggie Bush and LenDale White,'' recalled Choice, who still uses ``we'' when referring to Oklahoma. ``It would have been fun to have Adrian Peterson and me on the other side of the ball running at them.
``But I had to leave, and (Peterson) understood. He didn't want me to leave, and he knows I didn't leave because of him. We were both going to run the ball. People don't understand. At Oklahoma, we would run one back and then another back. There's never going to be one back getting all the carries.''
The possibilities were apparent when Peterson and Choice practiced together, making life miserable for the Oklahoma defense.
``Me and him together? It was brutal,'' Choice said, a gleam in his eyes. ``When we went against the defense in scrimmages, they hated it.''
At Georgia Tech, Choice spent a year playing behind P.J. Daniels, then finally had a breakout season. In 2006, he led the ACC in rushing with 1,473 yards and helped the Yellow Jackets win their first division title.
Of course, much of the attention was directed at Johnson, the best receiver in the country and the second pick in the draft by the Detroit Lions. Choice didn't even earn All-ACC honors, relegated to the second team even though he gained more yards than anyone.
``It didn't really matter,'' Choice insisted. ``Last year, I loved playing beside C.J. I loved it when I played beside A.P., too. All it does is make you want to work harder.''
Now - finally - he's the one getting all the attention. Now - finally - he's the one getting mentioned as a Heisman candidate.
``He used to be a little bit underrated,'' teammate Philip Wheeler said. ``I think everybody now is giving him a lot of respect.''
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