NORMAN — It’s been a different preseason for Oklahoma linebacker Corey Nelson. He’s no longer the football equivalent of a utility player. The days of him having to learn four different spots and quickly plug any hole that arises are over.
The Sooners just need him to be their weakside linebacker.
“I’ve adjusted to it well,” Nelson said. “I was able to understand this is my job and my position and it’s what I have to do for this team.”
There was little doubt this was the role Nelson was going to play. Back in his freshman season, the OU coaching staff pegged him as the heir apparent to Travis Lewis at that spot. Nelson had all the tools to do it.
He just had to wait his turn.
In the meantime, he spent a little time at nickelback and even played the defensive end spot. Anywhere someone with a little more size or a little more speed could be used, Nelson filled the void. But he was always going to be in the spot he’s in now.
A Funny thing happened last spring. When the time arrived, Nelson seemed lost.
“He was a little bit out of whack I thought,” linebackers coach Tim Kish said.
Nelson was off enough that there was some doubt whether the job was actually his. He worked with the second team during the Red/White Game last spring. He had to go out and win the job back in August.
Nelson did it and removed a lot of concerns in the process.
“For him to lose focus a little bit, it’s a little unlike him, but he got back on track,” middle linebacker Tom Wort said. “He refocused in. He’s back there making plays.”
Nelson has always made plays. He started 11 games last season at either the nickel spot or defensive end. The Dallas native showed he could get to the quarterback with 51⁄2 sacks, but Nelson also broke up six passes.