NORMAN — Every step Dominique Alexander did or did not take Monday was scrutinized. Oklahoma linebackers coach Tim Kish and recently injured linebacker Corey Nelson watched him like a hawk and quizzed him like prosecutors.
“It was like, I can’t mess up,” the freshman said Monday evening following the Sooners’ practice. “I had to be on my stuff and know what I’m doing and they have to feel confident in playing me and putting me in there as a starter.”
Alexander, a true freshman, will be the Sooners’ starting weakside linebacker when they face Texas at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. And there won’t be a defensive player with more eyes on him than Alexander.
Alexander fully grasps that he has big shoes fill. Nelson, who suffered a season-ending pectoral injury in the 20-17 victory over TCU last Saturday, filled many roles for the 11th-ranked Sooners.
Nelson played inside linebacker in three- or two-linebacker personnel groups and outside linebacker when OU used four. More importantly he was one of the emotional leaders along with being one of its most experienced defenders.
The last two aspects of Nelson’s value are not replaceable. Filling that inside linebacker job is the only thing OU’s coaching staff wants Alexander to concern himself with.
“He has to go play football. That’s what he has done since he was 10 years old. It’s not going to change,” OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said.
“He has a job to do. He knows what his responsibilities will be on Saturday. End of story. He has to play. Nobody cares how many games you play. If he lines up, he has an expectation and a confident way about him … we’re not worried about him.”
OU will not overload Alexander’s plate this week. He was already playing the weakside linebacker spot when OU used four linebackers. Nelson used to move to one of the outside spots on those occasions. Junior Aaron Franklin will handle that job.