Roundtable: OU freshmen to watch in 2012

Which true freshmen -- outside of the receivers -- should fans keep an eye on in 2012?

Trey Metoyer and Sterling Shepard have garnered most of the praise through the first week of the season. But another freshman could have a big impact, on special teams and maybe even offense. Jenks running back Alex Ross quietly had an outstanding summer. The former track standout has speed to burn and is already drawing consideration to return kicks. The Sooners are deep in the backfield with Dominique Whaley, Brennan Clay and Damien Williams. But if the Sooners didn't think Ross could help them right away, wouldn't they redshirt him? All signs point to Ross playing immediately. And down the line, he could turn into one special running back.

- Jake Trotter

The joy of signing Gary Simon was evident on the face of Mike Stoops after the Florida cornerback prospect signed with Oklahoma in February. The joys of getting him on campus could be even better as Simon could be a difference-maker in the secondary. He brings unique athleticism and ball skills along with good size at 6-foot-1, 190 pounds. With the Sooners looking for additional options in the secondary, expect Simon to seize the opportunity and make an impact on defense and on OU's special-teams units. And that's great news for Stoops as he searches for ways to slow down the explosive, pass-happy offenses in the Big 12.

- Brandon Chatmon

When Brent Venables left to become the defensive coordinator at Clemson, there was some question about whether Seffner (Fla.) Armwood linebacker Eric Striker would stick with the Sooners? Venables was essentially the only coach Striker kept in touch with. He ended those rumors before they could start, saying he was going to OU for the school and not for the coach. And now OU fans are going to learn just how happy they are about that decision. Striker was the first name mentioned by Corey Nelson when asked who has impressed him so far, and Tim Kish confirmed he will not be redshirted. Striker might only initially make his name on special teams, but if he gets a chance, he is going to stand out. With a name like “Striker” as a linebacker, how could he not?

- Bob Przybylo

Few are talking about tight end Taylor McNamara this summer, but he might be an important cog for the Sooners' offense this season. After losing all of its tight ends from 2011, OU brought in junior college hog Brannon Green and McNamara in the spring and both will likely play early and often in 2012. McNamara, who at 6-foot-5 and 234 pounds is considered the most-legitimate pass catcher of the two, showed positive signs in the spring Red-White game, catching three balls for 23 yards. While it's unlikely McNamara puts up huge numbers -- remember, even Jermaine Gresham made a minimal impact as a true freshman, catching eight passes and just one touchdown -- he'll definitely be on the field.

- Dane Beavers