The Oklahoma Sooners received some tough injury news Sunday when they confirmed via press release that senior linebacker Corey Nelson will likely miss the remainder of the season with a partially torn pectoral muscle.
Nelson sustained the injury in Saturday's win over TCU.
It's a big loss from both a production and leadership standpoint. Before leaving the game Saturday, Nelson was second on the team in tackles, with 27. He also had a pick-six in the first quarter of OU's win over Notre Dame last month.
Nelson has played in 45 games over his career. That kind of experience can be hard to come by. Clearly, he'll be missed, but coach Bob Stoops has mentioned during the Big 12 coaches teleconference that a medical redshirt for Nelson is possible.
Stoops added Monday during the teleconference that freshman Dominique Alexander and junior Aaron Franklin will split time to fill the void left by Nelson, who will try to delay the surgery he was originally supposed to have this week so he can be on the sidelines for the Texas game this Saturday.
"I love him in that he's upbeat," Stoops said Monday via the Associated Press (h/t The Dallas Morning News). "He’s disappointed, but he’s still going to remain a leader. He wants to be out on the field coaching and be around the guys all week. You love it. He wants to remain in that leadership role and do all he can to help us."
That's what any team should want out of a senior: to continue having a presence and influence even without shoulder pads on.
Undoubtedly, Nelson will be in Alexander's and Franklin's ears often against the Longhorns. But the fact is that neither of these replacements has started a game, though Franklin has played in 26 games in his career.
Nelson's biggest contribution was in run defense. He already had three tackles for loss this season and a sack heading into the TCU game. In his career, Nelson has 17.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks.
That kind of disruption in the backfield would have been nice against Texas, which should be concentrating more on the run game against the Sooners anyway. Now that Nelson is out, the 'Horns will likely feed their running backs even more.
If OU can stop the run, the Sooners have a great chance of winning and doing so convincingly. That responsibility falls on the Oklahoma defensive front and linebackers. Alexander is young, but he's certainly talented enough.
Getting Alexander into position to make plays against a guy like Johnathan Gray is where Nelson is going to have to step up as an extra coach on the sidelines.
Nelson's on-the-field absence shouldn't be game-changer in Dallas, but it could make things a bit more interesting.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All information and quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenKercheval.