NORMAN — In the weeks following Oklahoma's Cotton Bowl loss, Sooner coaches met with senior Corey Nelson, fessed up to some schematic gaffes and vowed to make it right moving forward.
So far, so good. Through four spring practices, two rebirths are taking place: linebackers' relevance in Oklahoma's defense, and Nelson's self-confidence.
“Last year, I got down on myself,” Nelson said after Thursday's practice. “I got it back. I got my swag back ... but I was down in confidence once upon a time.”
Nelson's emotional dip came as Oklahoma coaches experimented with no-linebacker schemes late in the 2012 season, when the Sooners met some of the nation's most prolific spread offenses.
Opponents gashed Oklahoma's defense and, as a result, its linebackers' confidence while they stood idly on the sideline.
“Toward the end, we started to get a little relaxed and tended to not care,” Nelson said. “But after (coaches) saw that, they knew they had to make some changes and they had to fix it.”
Linebacker Tom Wort opted to skip his senior season at Oklahoma and enter the NFL Draft, a move that surprised almost everyone, including Nelson.
“He told me he was gonna leave after the last game, the bowl game,” Nelson said. “But I kinda didn't believe him. It threw me for a loop when he did, though.”
At Wednesday's Oklahoma Pro Day, Wort said schematic changes and frustration “somewhat” factored into his decision to leave.
“I absolutely believe it did,” Nelson said. “We had conversations, multiple conversations, just throughout the season, just talking about how frustrated he was, and how frustrated I was at times.”
That frustration led Nelson — who Bob Stoops said two springs ago looked like “the best player out there on defense ... In fact, it's not even close” — to entertain similar thoughts.
“I thought about it,” Nelson said. “I put it in God's hands ... God just told me it was the best decision for me to stay another year because my teammates need me.”
Coaches are glad Nelson decided to stay. He's one of Oklahoma's three defensive seniors — along with defensive backs Aaron Colvin and Gabe Lynn — with significant experience.
Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops admitted last week that his late-2012 schemes “did a little bit of injustice to our linebackers,” but said the spread-out offenses he faced left him with few better ideas.
“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,” Mike Stoops said. “We're gonna try to keep two linebackers on the field as much as we can in each situation.”