NORMAN — Oklahoma’s season will be remembered for a lot of things. Linebacker Corey Nelson recalls it as one of the most frustrating five months of his career.
It was the period where his career went from burgeoning star to a marginal player through no fault of his own. Sooner defensive coordinator Mike Stoops believed the way to counteract the Big 12 Conference’s spread offenses was with as many defensive backs as possible. Nelson spent a lot of time standing on the sidelines because of it.
The scheme was the main reason linebacker Tom Wort opted to leave with a year of eligibility remaining. When teams put four or more receivers on the field, which is pretty often in the Big 12 Conference, the linebackers came off.
Nelson admitted he thought about departing as well.
“I thought about it. Yeah, I did,” Nelson said. “I put it in God’s hands, and he just decided ... I decided it was the best decision, and God just told me it was the best decision for me to stay another year because my teammates need me.”
The other reason is the Sooners’ defense needs him, too. One thing has been apparent since the 2012 season ended: linebackers are a necessity in OU’s scheme.
Mike Stoops has done a mea culpa.
“I think our scheme did a little bit of an injustice to our linebackers a year ago. I sound redundant, but I don’t know how else to say it,” he said. “When you’re going against four wideouts 70 percent of the game, that’s extraordinary and it limits some of the things these guys can do. We’re gonna try to keep two linebackers on the field as much as we can in each situation.”
There aren’t many circumstances you’d think taking Nelson off the field would be to the Sooners’ advantage. By the end of his sophomore season, he was one of OU’s best defenders.