Potential breakout players for Oklahoma

NORMAN, Okla. -- Halfway through preseason camp is a terrific time to look at some unknown Sooners who could end up being a significant contributors in 2013. Here are five guys who could make a difference in crimson and cream in 2013.

RB Alex Ross: The redshirt freshman almost played his way out of a redshirt season in 2012 but eventually used the year off to get better prepared to be an impact runner. Even though the Sooners return three seniors at running back, Ross brings a combination of size and speed that is difficult to duplicate.

Coach Bob Stoops even singled out Ross after the Sooners’ first scrimmage on Aug. 10. Look for Ross to get some carries this season as he strives to set himself up to be the main in the backfield in 2014.

“Ross was a guy who really stood out in the scrimmage with speed and being powerful,” Stoops said.

WR Lacoltan Bester: A junior college signee in the Class of 2012, Bester barely made waves as a newcomer last fall. This season, he’s poised to earn some playing time, possibly even start, during his final year in crimson and cream.

He’s another player coming off a solid scrimmage on Saturday and he started the spring game last April. One of the most competitive receivers on the roster, Bester’s name consistently comes off the tongue of Aaron Colvin when the Sooners’ cornerback is asked which receiver could surprise in 2013.

S Hatari Byrd: The true freshman from Fresno, Calif., has been the buzz of preseason camp. His college-ready size and focused mentality should help him carve himself a role in the defense this fall. Byrd has impressed with his versatility -- he actually lined up at three different spots in the first three days of camp.

He’s very knowledgeable,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “He’s easy to coach. He wants to be great. His maturity level is one of the highest I’ve seen this early on in a career. That’s a very unique set of tools to work with in a kid this young. He may be the biggest, fastest guy we’ve seen at this age.”

DE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo: It won’t be easy for the true freshman to see the field this season with several talented youngsters alongside him in the defensive line meeting room. Yet the Sooners desperately need a pass rush. And Okoronkwo might be the answer.

He has impressed with his pass rushing skills during his first few months on campus and even though he’s a tad undersized at 6-foot-3, 214 pounds, don’t be surprised to see him play his way out of a redshirt season.

S Ahmad Thomas: Pretty much every time Byrd’s name comes up among his teammates, that Sooner will add Thomas’ name into the mix. People tend to forget about the true freshman from Miami, Fla., but he was one of the stars of spring after enrolling early.

With the Sooners looking to add additional depth and overall talent in the secondary, Thomas should be able to help OU immediately. His size and willingness to play physical are unusual for a true freshman.