NORMAN — Corey Nelson was back at practice Monday, doing many of the same things he always does.
He spent time going over what Texas does offensively and talked with freshman Dominique Alexander, telling him things he needs to look for Saturday in the Cotton Bowl.
Instead of being right in the middle of things, decked out in pads and preparing himself, the Sooners senior linebacker was in a much different role.
After suffering a season-ending tear of his pectoral muscle against TCU, Nelson was scheduled to undergo surgery Tuesday.
But the Sooners' best linebacker and possibly their best defender through the first five games didn't want to spend this week recovering away from the team while the Sooners prepared for the Red River Rivalry.
“He wants to hold off until next week because he wants to be out on the field coaching and be around the guys all week,” Bob Stoops said Monday. “You love it. He wants to remain in that leadership role and do all he can to help us.”
Nelson's presence was particularly useful to Alexander and junior Aaron Franklin.
Stoops said that whichever of those two players had the best week of practice would start against Texas.
“Corey is right there with me, and he's helped me out the whole way through,” Alexander said. “I know what I need to, reading my keys and everything. He's trying to get me as successful as I can be.”
Things were a little chaotic against TCU in the immediate aftermath of Nelson's injury.
Alexander — and the defense as a whole — looked confused at times without Nelson, who has been critical in making sure players were lined up properly.
“That was our fault,” Sooners defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “There was a little confusion just because we had to switch some people around, but it's not his fault.”
Linebacker Frank Shannon and cornerback Aaron Colvin figure to be two of the players that will be counted on in those communication roles without Nelson.
“It will be a big difference on the field,” Franklin said. “Corey and Frank, they talk a lot to get (players) in the right places, making sure they're all in sync.
“It'll be a big role to fill.”
Stoops also said Nelson was exploring the possibility of a medical hardship with the NCAA that would give him another year of eligibility. Nelson has not redshirted, but it would appear difficult for him to gain another year of eligibility.
NCAA rules say the season-ending injury must happen in the first half of the season, which Nelson's did. But rules also specify that a player must not have played in more than 30 percent of a team's games that season. Nelson did pass that mark.
Once the waiver is denied by the Big 12, though, the conference can submit the waiver to the NCAA's Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement, who can review the application and can vote to approve the waiver based on “circumstances that may warrant relief from the application of the legislated waiver criteria.”