Oklahoma Sooners in the 2011 Insight Bowl: 5 Players You Need to Know
Photo by: Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman
The Insight Bowl is officially two days away, and the Oklahoma Sooners need to find a way to compensate for all their injuries.
The Sooners will be without Ryan Broyles, Dominique Whaley, Jaz Reynolds, fullback Aaron Ripkowski and lineman Adam Shead for the Insight Bowl—all due to injuries. They will also be without defensive end Ronnell Lewis due to academic ineligibility.
If the Sooners want to end their season on a good note, they are going to have to get production from guys who haven't been called upon very much this season.
However, everyone has to step up in order to win this game. The Sooners can't take the Hawkeyes lightly.
Kameel Jackson: Wide Receiver
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With only nine receptions for 120 yards on the season, it's now time for true-freshman wide receiver Kameel Jackson to step up for the Sooners.
Jackson has played behind Ryan Broyles, Kenny Stills, Jaz Reynolds and Trey Franks all season, but with Broyles and Reynolds out for the Insight Bowl, Jackson will be called upon a lot more.
Jackson has something to prove in this game, as it's almost like a tryout for next season. With the loaded wide-receiving recruiting class for the Sooners coming in, Jackson will be fighting for snaps next season.
A great performance in the Insight Bowl will be a good warm-up for Jackson, and he very well could be quarterback Landry Jones' best deep threat in the game.
Trey Millard: Fullback
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Let's take a trip back to the Missouri game, where Trey Millard had the highlight of his season when he demolished Matt White (who is trying to make a tackle).
I could watch that over and over, but what I'm really looking forward to watching is Millard's role in the Sooners offense for the Insight Bowl.
Millard can do it all. While he's utilized most as a fantastic blocker, Millard has actually carried the ball 20 times for 148 yards and two touchdowns. On top of averaging over seven yards per carry, Millard has also caught 13 passes for 127 yards and one touchdown.
With freshman running back Brandon Williams transferring, Millard should be the one to benefit the most—at least for this game.
Millard is a great all-around player who makes something happen each time he touches the ball. Look for Millard to be way more involved in the offense.
Frank Alexander: Defensive End
With stand-out sophomore running back Marcus Coker out for the Hawkeyes, Iowa will have to turn to its passing game more than ever.
Luckily for the Hawkeyes, junior quarterback James Vandenberg is more than qualified to step up and perform. Vandenberg has had a great season despite what his team's record might show. Vandenberg has thrown for 2,806 yards, 23 touchdowns and only six interceptions.
Vandenberg's stats would likely be even better if he had a more consistent offensive line protecting him. Vandenberg has been sacked 26 times this season. If the Sooners want to win this game, they will have to consistently keep pressure on Vandenberg.
That's where senior defensive end Frank Alexander fits in. Alexander has been the best player on the Sooners' defense this season, totaling 51 tackles (15 for loss) and a team-high 8.5 sacks.
Alexander's stellar season has helped his draft stock considerably, but he will be playing with extra determination against Iowa to put the finishing touches on his career at OU.
I wouldn't be surprised to see Alexander have multiple sacks in this game.
Landry Jones: Quarterback
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It may not seem like it, but the Insight Bowl is going to be huge for junior quarterback Landry Jones.
Jones has yet to decide whether he will return for his senior year or leave a year early for the NFL draft—the Insight Bowl could be the deciding factor.
This will be Jones' last chance (if he decides to leave) to showcase his abilities before the NFL combine. A good performance could be enough to sway Jones away from the Sooners, but a rocky performance could be a killer to Jones' confidence.
If I were making the decision for him, I'd tell him to stay for his senior year. Jones still has a lot to work on before he can call himself ready to play at the next level.
The Hawkeyes are giving up 228 passing yards per game this season, and they have yet to face an offense with as much firepower as Oklahoma. Jones will have a lot to prove, both to the scouts and to himself.
Javon Harris: Free Safety
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So maybe junior free safety Javon Harris hasn't had the greatest season, but at times he has shown promise. Let's not forget his two-interception game against Florida State early in the season.
Granted, that performance has been certainly outweighed by the negatives, such as the multiple eggs Harris laid against Baylor.
Harris is a very talented player, but he consistently looks out of position and confused. He has been losing playing time to senior Sam Proctor because of this, but that doesn't mean that Harris' career is over.
After his horrendous performance against Baylor, Harris decided it was a good idea to face the media and own up for his on-field mistakes. He made zero excuses. That's exactly the kind of attitude you want from a player.
Harris has the entire offseason to practice and get prepared to step up for his senior season, but the Insight Bowl gives Harris one last shot this season to prove he's qualified to play.
Maybe this isn't exactly the game that he and the rest of the Sooners were looking forward to playing in, but that can't be avoided now. The time has come for Harris to get motivated and play his heart out.
However, I won't be surprised to see Proctor garnering more time at safety in the game.