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OU 2010 Players to Watch, Day 4: Jonathan Nelson

20100214-OU Players to Watch 20100214-OU Players to Watch

Originally Published: Feb 18, 2010 4:18 PM CDT

Also on Oklahoma Sports:
-OSU Player to Watch, Day 4: Wilson Youman
-TU Player to Watch, Day 4: Trae Johnson

Corey DeMoss
Oklahoma Sports Staff Writer

CB Jonathan Nelson


Nelson played cornerback for three years at Summit High School in Arlington, Texas, but did not register outstanding stats during his senior season because opposing quarterbacks did not throw in his direction. He was rated among the top 20 cornerbacks in the nation by four different recruiting Web sites and was also a decorated sprinter. Rivals.com rated him a four-star recruit and clocked him at 4.4 in the 40-yard dash.

Why he’s on the list:

The Sooners will experience major turnover in the secondary thanks to the departures of Dominique Franks and Brian Jackson. Nelson has seen increases in action during each of his three seasons with OU and is now poised to step into Jackson’s role as a shutdown corner. Nelson is smaller but quicker than Jackson and has by far the most experience of any of OU’s returning cornerbacks.

Best-case scenario:

Nelson immediately steps into the starting lineup and from day one proves to be a dominant presence covering the opposing team’s best receiver. His combination of strength and speed allows him to cover short, intermediate and deep passes equally well. His ability to play in one-on-one coverage allows OU’s safeties to act as center fielders, freeing them to intercept more passes.

Worst-case scenario:

Nelson proves unable to cover skilled route runners, causing the Sooners to use more zone coverage than man-to-man. OU should still be able to limit big plays, but could be more vulnerable to long and extended drives. The Big 12 offenses will be seeing significant turnover but they will still be passing heavy, which means a weakness at cornerback will be magnified.

My take:

Nelson showed considerable progress last season. He finished with 46 tackles and three interceptions mostly as a nickel cornerback with some time at safety mixed in. He has shown an adequate ability to read the offense, but has not had to be put on an island against an opponent’s No. 1 receiver yet. However, he has already had three years of experience at the college level, which is a major plus.

Brian Jackson blossomed into a dominant cornerback as last season went on, and there’s no reason to think Nelson can’t follow suit. He was very well regarded coming out of high school and he has had plenty of time to get acclimated to Brent Venables’ defense. When losing corners as skilled as Jackson and Franks, a replacement like Nelson is about the best OU could hope for. As for the other cornerback position, check back later in our “Players to Watch” series for more.

Other OU players to watch (click the names below to read the full stories)
Day 1: WR Jaz Reynolds
Day 2: OL Stephen Good
Day 3: S Sam Proctor

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