NORMAN — It would be hard to blame Dominique Alexander if he’d rebuffed Oklahoma’s overture last winter. He was a standout highschool linebacker and had many offers to play the position elsewhere.
They all offered something the Sooners did not have: a current defensive plan that focused on using multiple linebackers. The Sooners could only offer a future plan.
Alexander weighed the pros and cons and made a simple decision.
“Recruiting and choosing a school is all about trust. You’ve gotta believe in what they tell you because any school can tell you what you wanna hear. That’s all most recruiters do anyway,” Alexander said. “But it’s all about the man that you are closest to, that you believe in the most, and you believe in the program and what the future is. You’ve just gotta lean on that when you make your commitment.”
Betting on the future paid off handsomely for both Alexander and the Sooners. Earlier this month he was both the Associated Press Big 12 defensive newcomer of the year and the league’s coaches’ defensive freshman of the year.
The 70 tackles he amassed in just seven starts since senior Corey Nelson suffered a season-ending pectoral injury have been instrumental in the run that has No. 11 OU facing No. 3 Alabama Jan. 2 in the Sugar Bowl.
Think back to Oct. 5 when Nelson suffered the injury in the 20-17 victory over TCU. Removing Nelson from the field appeared to be a death knell for OU’s defense.
Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops had spent the previous offseason revamping the scheme in order to keep two linebackers — specifically Nelson — on the field at all times. The senior responded by playing at an all-conference level through the first five games.
Nelson’s replacement: Alexander, a true freshman. If there was ever a time to ditch the defensive changes, that was it.