After a promising freshman season and dominant spring going into his sophomore season, linebacker Corey Nelson looked poised to break out for the Oklahoma Sooners and become one of the best defensive players in the Big 12. A change in defensive coordinators resulted in sporadic playing time over the last two seasons, however, and has stymied his star potential from taking off. That looks to be fixed this season.
When the Sooners changed defensive coordinators from Brent Venables to Mike Stoops, they changed their philosophy with the linebackers. While Venables built his defense around the linebacker position, Stoops uses linebackers as gap fillers who funnel tackles to the safeties. That didn’t allow Nelson to showcase his abilities, leading to some very frustrating conversations with fellow linebacker Tom Wort.
Things got even worse last season when Oklahoma started going up against the spread offenses of the Big 12. Stoops began pulling his linebackers off the field altogether, which ultimately killed the Sooners’ run defense and resulted in the defense surrendering more than 40 points in three of their last four games.
Nelson, once called the “best player” on Oklahoma’s defense by head coach Bob Stoops, was so deflated by his lack of playing time that he considered joining Wort, who had transferred to the West Virginia Mountaineers. But the Stoops brothers have made amends with their star linebacker, who will be using his time not playing to fuel his competitive fire this season when he is on the field.
Stoops has recommitted to his linebackers for next season, designing new ways for them to stay on the field at all times and be a disruptive force against any offense the Sooners will face in conference play next season. Along with Nelson, the Sooners will line up Frank Shannon, Eric Striker and Aaron Franklin up at linebacker for an athletic quartet of playmakers that will be prominently featured next fall.
None more so then Nelson, however, who has been lined up all over the field this spring, including defensive end on obvious passing situations. After two seasons of being penned in by poor use of his talents, Oklahoma finally seems ready to unleash Corey Nelson on the Big 12 in 2013.