Roundtable: Most to prove in Cotton Bowl

Every Thursday, the SoonerNation staff will answer a roundtable question about OU football. Leave a comment or talk about it in our "There's Only One" forum.

Today's question: Which Sooner has the most to prove going into the Cotton Bowl?

• With Stacy McGee likely suspended for the Cotton Bowl, the future of the defensive tackle position at Oklahoma figures to get his chance. Freshman Jordan Phillips has played sparingly this season, but he'll be the returning defensive tackle with the most experience next season. Phillips has shown flashes, but only that. If the Sooners are going to be a contender next season, Phillips has to prove that he can anchor what otherwise will be a young and inexperienced defensive tackle rotation. Some big plays in the Cotton Bowl will give him some much needed confidence and momentum going into the offseason.

-- Jake Trotter

• With Daryl Williams ruled out for the Cotton Bowl, offensive tackle Tyrus Thompson will be placed in the spotlight. It's an opportunity for Thompson, who has seen significant action this season, to further secure a role in OU's offensive line as the Sooners are actively looking to create a competition to start at tackle in 2013. Facing an Aggies defensive which averages 2.5 sacks and 5.9 tackles for loss per game, Thompson will be counted on to protect Landry Jones and give the Sooners skill players chances to make plays. With Josiah St. John set to join the squad next season, Thompson could use a strong Cotton Bowl as a springboard into 2013 and possibly a starting role as a junior. If he struggles, all eyes could turn to St. John, a junior college transfer, to step in at tackle, potentially surpassing Thompson on the depth chart.

-- Brandon Chatmon

• The Cotton Bowl has to be the coming out party for either Sterling Shepard or Durron Neal. Justin Brown is going to be gone. It's possible Kenny Stills will be leaving for the NFL. With Jalen Saunders returning, OU will have at least one dynamic receiver back. But the new Sooners starting quarterback in 2013 (Blake Bell, Trevor Knight or someone else) is going to need Shepard and Neal to live up to their billing as ESPN 150 talents. Shepard has shown glimpses, while Neal has sort of been lost in the shuffle. No better time for Neal to start emerging than Jan. 4 against Texas A&M.

-- Bob Przybylo