NORMAN — All's not lost in this 9-3 football season for Oklahoma. The bowl game, even if it's the Insight, provides an opportunity for additional game experience — and practices leading up to it — that could pay off to ensure 2012 isn't a similar disappointment for the Sooners.
Here are five players for which the Iowa game could be important, with an eye toward the future.
That's right, Javon Harris. Harris made a bunch of big plays for the Sooners in 2011. Gave up more of them, however. Talent isn't the issue with Harris; it's playing smart. Too often this season, he has overpursued, trying too hard to make the big play when playing safety — that's why it's called safety — should be his proper motivation.
Harris will be a senior next year, and he'll probably remain a big part of the secondary. It would be a good time for him to get back in the coaches' good graces with a solid effort against a team that, well, doesn't pass all that often.
We've heard a lot about Jackson since the season began, and it seems as if he's got a toe dipped in the water, in terms of performing. What better time to jump in and really show he can be a guy to be counted on in 2012? Jackson appears to have the necessary skills and toughness, the makeup, to be a playmaker.
With Ryan Broyles (knee) and Jaz Reynolds (kidney) out, and Kenny Stills sometimes mentally checking out, why can't Jackson be a major player in the offense? As in, right now.
File Trey Franks — and, heck, even Stills — in the same folder. Those will be the returning players asked to fill Broyles' void next season and beyond. Whatever they do in the bowl could be resume-building stuff so that newcomers such as Sterling Shepard and Trey Metoyer don't take their spots.
You think you had an All-Big 12 season, Mr. Jefferson? Better go play like it, Big Boy. Jefferson's season, as far as tackles go, was pretty consistent. He went from four takeaways in two weeks to one the final seven games, so it's possible Jefferson just spoiled everyone during that binge against Ball State and Texas.
It seems, for whatever reasons, that Jefferson hasn't been as close to the ball as he was early in the season. Maybe that's intentional, on the other teams' parts. Maybe it's a product of Jefferson playing through a balky knee issue.
Maybe it's something he's done. Maybe it's all of that, combined.
Jefferson could be a junior captain next season for a defense desperately seeking leaders. A strong statement in 'Zona wouldn't hurt.
This might seem like an odd, or perhaps obvious, inclusion, but this an intriguing game for Jones. Scouts have noted that Jones hasn't thrown for a touchdown in three games, since losing Broyles. Surely the smart ones realize a lot of that has been Blake Bell's influence near the goal line, but there's still a show-me-something quality to this game for Jones where the NFL is concerned.
Not that the League is or should be his motivation, but it has to be some sort of consideration, doesn't it? Jones has had a good season. A nice bowl showing wouldn't make or break his season, personally, but it could give teams something to think about heading into the Combine. Feels 50-50 right now whether Jones returns for his senior season. Could something, one way or the other, in the bowl shift those odds?
Maybe a good sidebar to the Insight Bowl would be seeing how many snaps Millard gets against Iowa — and at what positions.
You might recall Bob Stoops getting onto Josh Heupel in last year's bowl game, imploring Heupel, the newly ordained play-caller, to find more ways to use Millard. With the running back position depleted, and the tight end position about to be obliterated, why not get him more time at those spots in the bowl?
Give him the ball 10 times, see what happens. Line him up at H-back and tight end more often, see what happens. What do the Sooners have to lose?