Nelson proved himself as a guy who looks the part of a truly gifted player. He came to Oklahoma as the nation's No. 3 linebacker in the 2010 class, a late steal from Texas A&M. He earned playing time as a true freshman and has been a two-year starter, but he has yet to really emerge as the kind of guy whose production matches his physical skills.
Part of that is Oklahoma's defensive scheme, which took the linebackers off the field pretty often last year in Mike Stoops' first year as defensive coordinator. That didn't work very well, but Nelson's got a ton of speed at 215 pounds and I'd look for him to be on the field a whole lot more. He had 13 fewer tackles in 2012 than he did in his All-Big 12 honorable mention season back in 2011, with less than half as many tackles for loss and just one sack.
Nelson's good enough to be the Big 12's best linebacker, but he's got to take advantage of opportunities and make it clear that taking him off the field is unthinkable. He didn't make that happen last year. The Sooners bring in a whole lot of blue-chip talent every year, but Nelson was one of the most highly recruited. The Dallas native has been good, but not great. If he's great this year, he could end up making himself a whole lot of money in advance of next year's NFL draft, too.