NORMAN — Corey Nelson has said many times since the spring that he's made peace with last fall's struggle to get on the field and is excited about what his senior year holds.
But speaking to reporters Monday, five days before Oklahoma's 2013 season opener against Louisiana-Monroe, Nelson clearly remains a little irked by his unit's late-2012 irrelevancy.
The senior linebacker watched helplessly from the sideline as Tavon Austin's 344 rushing yards torched the Sooners in a narrow, high-scoring victory over West Virginia. In shoot-out wins over Baylor and Oklahoma State — and in Texas A&M's Cotton Bowl rout of OU — Nelson and the Sooner linebackers were similarly uninvolved.
“It still fuels me because we didn't really have linebackers out there to take hold of the situation,” Nelson said Monday. “To really grab the bull by the horns and take control of, ‘OK, this is what the defense needs to do, this is what we're gonna do and this is how we're gonna do it.' We didn't have that control there during those games.”
Nelson speaks like a leader, and his teammates made that title official by voting him as one of six team captains.
Fullback Trey Millard, another senior captain seeking an expanded role in 2013, said he notices a difference in Nelson this year. The two collide on a fairly regular basis in practice.
“I think he's due for a really good year,” Millard said. “He's definitely got some technique things down that I don't think he had last year. He's continued to become a tougher person to block for me.”
Millard has been an important piece of Oklahoma's offense since his true freshman year in 2010, but only has 140 career offensive touches.
In those rushes and catches, Millard has shown big-play ability, versatility and toughness, causing a chorus of fans and media to question his relatively few chances to showcase that talent.
Millard himself hasn't complained about his role, regularly repeating that he's happy to do anything that helps the team win.
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