- Brandon Chatmon, ESPN Staff Writer
Bowl practices can be a critical time for any football program. It’s an opportunity for young players to show how they’ve improved during the season and set themselves up in integral roles on the offense or defense heading into the spring while the veterans recover from a physical schedule.
Here’s a look at five young players at Oklahoma who could use bowl practices as a springboard to a bigger role for the Sooners in 2013.
Receiver Trey Metoyer
It’s important Metoyer understands he is still a big part of OU’s offensive plans in the future and that starts with these bowl practices. With Justin Brown leaving and Kenny Stills potentially declaring for the NFL draft, the Sooners will need Metoyer to emerge as a quality target as a sophomore.
With the Sooners looking at playing without Jalen Saunders after his recent arrest, Metoyer could be asked to play a bigger role in the offense during the Cotton Bowl. Metoyer began the season as a starter but his youth and inexperience showed at times during his freshman season.
Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips
Phillips’ development is one of the most critical concerns for the Sooners heading into 2013 with their top three defensive tackles -- seniors Jamarkus McFarland, Stacy McGee and Casey Walker -- leaving the program after the Cotton Bowl.
The redshirt freshman has great size (6-foot-6, 316 pounds) and has seen more playing time as the season has progressed, recording 12 tackles. He’s had his moments when he’s played well but he’s far from a finished product. And the Sooners will desperately need him to play like one in 2013.
Cornerback Gary Simon
Senior Demontre Hurst has played as well as anyone on OU’s defense in 2012 and will be a big loss when he moves on after the Cotton Bowl. And junior Aaron Colvin could decide to test NFL waters. Therefore, Simon’s progress is important for OU’s defense.
The true freshman has seen limited playing time in blowout wins this season, so the bowl practices could be a opportunity for him to see some time with the No. 1 defense against the No. 1 offense. Simon impressed in the preseason and has the physical traits to be an impact player, he just needs the experience.
Defensive end Geneo Grissom
Seniors R.J. Washington and David King will play their final games in the Cotton Bowl and sophomore Chuka Ndulue is the lone defensive end with experience. Starting in the spring, the Sooners will be looking for another starter and two rotation players to fill out their defensive end rotation in 2013.
It’s been an interesting year for Grissom, who started the season as a tight end. The bowl practices should give him more time to get comfortable in his return to defensive end while providing an opportunity for him to become the favorite to start opposite Ndulue in 2013.
Tackle Derek Farniok
OU has two solid tackles slated to return in Daryl Williams and Tyrus Thompson. Both players got plenty of experience this season while rotating with senior Lane Johnson. Nonetheless, the Sooners like to rotate their tackles and need Farniok to emerge as the No. 3 tackle in 2013.
The redshirt freshman has seen some spot duty this season as injuries have crippled the Sooners offensive line. Yet, the bowl practices will provide an opportunity for Farniok to improve and battle the No. 1 defense with an eye on proving himself as he prepares for a bigger role in 2013.
15hBrandon Chatmon and Jake Trotter