NORMAN, Okla. -- Things were simply moving too fast.
Kameel Jackson felt prepared when he played his first few snaps for Oklahoma in September. Yet, the true freshman receiver got a wake up call as the 2011 season went along.
"During the summer and fall camp, I felt good about playing," Jackson said. "Then the more reps I got in the game I felt like I wasn't adapting as fast as I should have."
Then All-American receiver Ryan Broyles tore his ACL against Texas A&M on Nov. 5, and Jackson's learning curve went from gradual to accelerated. The Sooners needed the freshman to step up and move into the rotation at receiver, and Jackson had six catches in OU's final three games.
Heading into the Insight Bowl against Iowa on Dec. 30, Jackson is looking to have a breakout performance and cement a key role in the Sooners' offensive attack heading into his sophomore season.
"[OU receivers] Coach [Jay] Norvell talked to me about that before these practices started," Jackson said. "Going and performing well in the bowl game like Ryan did before he actually became 'that guy.'"
In three bowl appearances during his career, Broyles had 30 receptions for 352 yards and four touchdowns.
"It kind of spring boarded him into the next year," Jackson said. "I feel real good, I'm excited for this game."
The coaching staff has been impressed by Jackson since the preseason and his teammates have seen the Arlington, Texas native's potential in practice.
"Kameel is going to be great when he gets older," safety Aaron Colvin said. "You can tell he was getting a feel for everything at the beginning of the year but he's getting more confident. I think he's progressed very well."
Jackson says he has gotten more comfortable as the season progressed, even though he has just nine catches for 120 yards heading into the Insight Bowl. He had a touchdown reception against Baylor called back due to a penalty and has impressed with his skills in running after the catch.
"I felt like I wasn't comfortable with the speed of the game," Jackson said. "Once I started playing more and got thrown into the fire, I started to get more comfortable and really adapting to the speed of the game. At practice I feel a lot better, like things are coming to me."
Cornerback Demontre Hurst, who has had several one-on-one battles with Jackson in practice, can tell the difference in Jackson's performance from August until now.
"Kameel has grown as a player, he's been highly motivated all year, he's been working hard," Hurst said. "I could see from the start of fall camp to now that's he's really improved. The game has slowed down for him and that makes it a lot easier."
While Jackson aims to mimic Broyles' bowl game production in his first-ever bowl game, the freshman already has one trait that helped Broyles become the most productive receiver in OU history.
Asked where Jackson ranks among the Sooners receivers in terms of their competitiveness, Hurst said: "He's up there... probably no less than 1 or 2. A young guy who is eager to make plays and make a name for himself."
"He's a great competitor who competes in everything he does," Hurst said.
Now the OU coaching staff hopes Jackson can begin to take some of those qualities and transform them into big-play production on the field. The Sooners have been searching for big plays from their receivers since Broyles was injured, so Jackson should get plenty of opportunities to prove himself against Iowa on Dec. 30.
"He has the opportunity to go out and make big plays," Hurst said. "And I'm sure that's what he wants to do. He's going to get his chance so I hope he seizes the moment but as long as he's on the right track everything will be good."
Brandon Chatmon covers University of Oklahoma sports and recruiting for SoonerNation. He can be reached at email@example.com.