As Oklahoma stares at the final four games of the regular season, the Sooners still have several goals, including a possible BCS berth, within reach.
Nonetheless, Oklahoma football is about championships. And a BCS title berth is out of the question and an outright Big 12 championship would require a Kansas State collapse down the stretch.
Therefore, now is a good time for the Sooners to starting thinking of 2013 as well as finishing off 2012 without another loss. Both goals can be accomplished if OU makes it a point to play some of the young players on its roster that they know they will be counting on in 2013. Here’s a look at five offensive players who should see more time in OU’s final four regular season and bowl game appearance:
Quarterback Blake Bell
While there’s no guarantee Bell takes over for Landry Jones in 2013, it wouldn’t hurt to get him as much game experience as possible in the final month of the season. Although he is the centerpiece of OU’s “Belldozer” package, Bell needs time running the Sooners' normal offense during game action.
There’s no reason to take Landry Jones out of the game while it’s still in doubt but if the Sooners lead by 20 points or more late in the third quarter or anytime in the fourth quarter during their final five games, they should insert Bell and allow him to run the offense without any limitations. While Oklahoma doesn't need to run up the score, getting Bell multiple opportunities running the offensive system without limitations should take priority.
Receiver Trey Metoyer
It’s critical that Metoyer feels involved in the final month of the season. The true freshman began the year as the preseason Big 12 newcomer of the year and started during September. He’s become an afterthought in OU’s offensive game plans as the season has unfolded.
OU needs to get him involved in November and remind him that he’s a big part of its plans in 2013 and beyond. As an elite athlete that is used to having success, it’s undoubtedly been a tough year for Metoyer. Talent is not an issue, so it’s on the coaching staff to make sure he enters the offseason engaged and confident about his role in the program in the future.
Getting Metoyer on the field and looking his way early could help get his confidence going and remind him that his freshman struggles could just be a small bump in the journey to a fruitful career in Norman.
Tackle Tyrus Thompson
Thompson got plenty of quality reps against Iowa State and the Sooners should make sure that continues. With Lane Johnson leaving, Thompson should step into a starter’s role in 2013. Making sure he has plenty of game experience is important in these final games.
With Daryl Williams returning as a solid anchor on the right side of the offensive line, Thompson, who nearly beat out Johnson for the starting spot this season, could emerge and give the Sooners a quality pair of tackles to protect whoever replaces Jones at quarterback.
Receiver Durron Neal
Neal has shown flashes of being a competitive playmaker in limited action this season. All four of his receptions this season have resulted in first downs for the Sooners.
OU needs to make sure Neal is prepared to become a major part of the offense in 2013, particularly if Kenny Stills decides to leave early for the NFL draft. If the Sooners continue to rotate receivers like they did against Iowa State and get Neal in the game early with it still in doubt, it should pay off in 2013. And they can do that without it having a significant negative impact on the final five games of 2012.
Sounds like a win-win scenario.
Center Ty Darlington
If Darlington is prepared to embrace a significant role in 2013, it opens up all kinds of options for OU’s offensive line. Tyler Evans and Nila Kasitati should be returning from injury and join Bronson Irwin and Adam Shead to provide a strong foursome at guard.
With Darlington prepared to play, OU would have a strong interior line group with Darlington joining Gabe Ikard at center. It also could give the Sooners the option to move Ikard to guard if they decide that's the best for the program. Much like Bell, the Sooners should be more open to put him in quickly if the game is no longer in doubt but not necessarily try to force-feed him to the wolves if the game remains in question.