Some of his lack of production last year wasn't his fault. Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops experimented with linebacker-less schemes to combat the late-season spread attacks OU faced.
“The linebackers are the quarterbacks of the defense,” Nelson said. “If it starts with us, it has to end with us. For (the public) to say that about the defense, it's kinda questioning the linebackers in general. It does light a fire up under me.”
The hurt pride wasn't just limited to OU defensive players, but also impacted coaches like Mike Stoops.
Last season was his first back as Oklahoma's defensive coordinator after an eight-year stint as head coach at Arizona.
Mike Stoops returned to a much different Big 12 Conference than he left in 2003, and in many ways wasn't prepared for the offenses he encountered.
After the Sooners' 50-49 win at West Virginia last November — when the Mountaineers racked up 778 total yards of offense, the most ever against Oklahoma — he could barely stand to look down at the stat sheet on the podium.
“I think we've all gotta take it personal,” Mike Stoops said of the way the public views his defense.
“We've been under siege, and rightfully so. … We're excited just to go out and play and compete. I think that will come out in our players throughout the course of this week. They're ready to get out and change that perception the best we can.”