Here are five players to watch when Oklahoma faces Iowa in the Insight Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz. on Friday:
Quarterback Landry Jones
His struggles in the Sooners final three games, without Ryan Broyles, have been well-chronicled. Jones has yet to throw a touchdown since Broyles was lost for the season with a torn ACL on Nov. 5.
With his decision on a return to OU looming, Jones could catapult himself back up draft boards with a strong Insight Bowl performance, particularly with the decision of USC quarterback Matt Barkley to return to school. ESPN.com draft experts Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. each have Jones as the third quarterback in this season’s draft class and project the junior to be a first round selection.
Regardless, Jones, who threw for 4,302 and 28 touchdowns this season, will be looking to get back on track and show the first-round skills that had NFL scouts drooling in September and October.
Running back Roy Finch
Once Finch finally got involved in the offense, he showed why he was a preseason All-Big 12 selection. The sophomore is dynamic in the open field and is a game-breaking threat with the ball in his hands.
In the Insight Bowl, Finch has the opportunity to cement a role in the offense heading into 2012. Breakout star Dominique Whaley should return to full strength in 2012, so there are no guarantees in OU’s backfield. Whaley has proven to be the most complete running back on the roster so Finch needs to prove to the coaching staff that they need to find a way to get him on the field alongside Whaley or in different personnel packages next fall.
Receiver Kameel Jackson
Much like Finch, Jackson can carve himself a permanent spot in the offense heading into next season.
A breakout performance from the true freshman would give the coaches confidence they have some solid options returning at the receiver position despite the departures of Justin McCay and Sheldon McClain.
Jackson has impressed with his competitiveness and run after the catch ability. He’s shown signs of being a playmaker but he needs to have a productive game with several incoming freshman receivers appearing poised to battle for playing time in 2012.
Linebacker Corey Nelson