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Sooners will find ways to get linebacker Corey Nelson on the field

BY JAKE TROTTER, Staff Writer, Modified: April 24, 2011 at 9:56 pm •  Published: April 24, 2011

It was defensive end Jeremy Beal's versatility to play outside linebacker that allowed the defensive alignment to work so well. OU could utilize the speed of an odd-man front again next season, only with Nelson manning Beal's role as the stand-up defensive end/outside linebacker.

3. Give Travis a break

Since 2007, Travis Lewis has taken almost every defensive snap at weakside linebacker. Venables doesn't like to substitute his starters out very often. But it's hard to believe that Lewis wouldn't be stronger going into the fourth quarter if he had a couple more series of relief.

In Nelson, the Sooners would have the luxury of resting Lewis without too much of a drop-off.

4. Swing Travis to the middle

There's no denying the defense took a turn for the better in 2010 when veteran middle linebacker Austin Box returned to the starting lineup following a preseason back injury that caused him to miss five games. There's also no denying that sophomore-to-be Tom Wort will be sharper because of the experience he gained as a freshman filling in for Box.

But even though the quality depth at middle linebacker is there, OU could try bringing Nelson in on the weakside while swinging Lewis to the middle in spots to get its speediest linebacking combination on the field simultaneously.

Such a mix — which would also feature thoroughbred nickelback Tony Jefferson — could be particularly effective in combating the speed of mobile quarterbacks like Florida State's E.J. Manuel.