Roundtable: Sooners to watch in preseason

With practice starting this week, give one Oklahoma player to watch during fall camp and why.

Overshadowed by the Ryan Broyles injury, the offense really missed Dominique Whaley the second half of the 2011 season. Whaley, who suffered a broken ankle at Kansas State, has been cleared to resume football activities. But even Bob Stoops has admitted the Sooners won't know how close Whaley is to his old self until he puts on the pads. Whaley gives OU the between-the-tackles back they sorely missed last November which had previously took pressure off the passing game. If he is the back he was last season, the Sooners will be that much tougher to stop.

- Jake Trotter

It's pretty simple for me. Trey Metoyer is the guy to watch because I love watching him play football. He's a special talent who can do special things, why wouldn't you want to watch him? Another reason to keep an eye on the true freshman is because I believe it is entirely possible he is considered one of the best players on the team as Big 12 play opens and emerges as an offensive threat who Big 12 defensive coordinators have to game plan against as November approaches. How Metoyer has handled his spring success and how he handles the demands of preseason camp could tell us how quickly his on-field production mirrors his overall potential and upside.

- Brandon Chatmon

Regardless of what happens with suspended wide receivers Jaz Reynolds, Trey Franks and Kameel Jackson, the name to watch in August is freshman Sterling Shepard. From all reports, Shepard has come in and put in the work in the summer and done everything possible to develop a good relationship with Landry Jones. If any of the suspended receivers do return, the spotlight won’t be on Shepard as much. However, he is somebody who will embrace the spotlight. And as an OU legacy, Shepard is ready to add his name to the Shepard lore. His father and his two uncles both played for the Sooners. What set Shepard apart at the high school level was his competitiveness. And it was never on display more than whenever there was a jump ball. Shepard is not the biggest receiver at 5-foot-10, but with 40-inch vertical leap and timing, he gets balls that you just simply never thought he could. It will be tough task, no doubt, but don’t be surprised to see Shepard in the starting lineup Sept. 1 at UTEP. If he’s not there, it won’t be for lack of effort.

- Bob Przybylo

Middle linebacker Tom Wort, who fought through multiple injuries in 2011 and had an up-and-down season, could be the Sooners' most important defensive player in 2012. With Travis Lewis gone to graduation, Wort will step into the role of OU's primary defensive leader, a role that's desperately needed for the Sooners to improve. Wort, who lost a close companion and position coach in Brent Venables this spring, will need to take the reigns of new defensive coordinator Mike Stoops' revamped scheme, which will likely put the linebacker in a better position to succeed. If Wort buys in and excels, the defense will be much improved around him.

- Dane Beavers