Oklahoma Sooners: Chaz Nelson

Crimson Countdown: DE Chaz Nelson 

July, 12, 2013
During the summer months, SoonerNation will take a closer look at each player on Oklahoma’s roster in our Crimson Countdown series. Each day, we will analyze each player’s impact on the program since arriving on campus, his potential impact this fall and his long-term impact. Starting with No. 1 Kendal Thompson, the series will follow the roster numerically through our final analysis of No. 99 Chaz Nelson.

No. 99 Chaz Nelson
Defensive end, 6-foot-2, 244 pounds, senior

The Oklahoma Sooners open spring practice this weekend with change in the air. Let's take a closer look.

Schedule: The Sooners begin spring ball Saturday, the first of 15 NCAA-allowed practices. OU will hold its spring game April 13.

What's new: What’s not? Bob Stoops brought in three new assistants, seven defensive starters are gone, and for the first time in six years, the Sooners have a quarterback competition. After back-to-back three-loss seasons, this is lining up to be the most important -- and most intriguing -- spring of the Stoops era in Norman.

All eyes on: The quarterback derby, which will be the dominant storyline of the spring. Junior Blake Bell, sophomore Kendal Thompson and freshman Trevor Knight are all vying to replace four-year starter Landry Jones. Bell is the favorite because of his age and experience in the “Belldozer” package, but insiders around the program believe Knight is capable of unseating him. Whatever happens in the spring, don’t expect a starter to be named. Stoops waited until the fall to declare Sam Bradford his starter in 2007, and figures to do the same here.

New faces: The Sooners welcome four mid-semester enrollees, and all four have a chance to make immediate impacts. Toronto native Josiah St. John, the No. 1 junior-college offensive tackle in the country, figures to be no worse than a key backup. Wide receiver Dannon Cavil, who grew up a Texas fan, has great size and should vie for a rotation spot at outside receiver. Defensively, Ahmad Thomas will be given every opportunity to start at safety, and defensive end D.J. Ward, the top player coming out of the state of Oklahoma, could boost a defensive front that ranked 108th nationally in tackles for loss last season.

Question marks: With only 11 starters back, the Sooners have plenty. On top of the quarterback battle, OU must overhaul virtually the entire defense, with All-Big 12 cornerback Aaron Colvin the only returning impact defender. Defensive tackle and back safety are especially tenuous. The Sooners have only three defensive tackles on the roster to practice with at the moment, and no one other than Colvin has a down of experience at back safety. Mike Stoops will have to be creative just to get through the spring, until reinforcements arrive over the summer.

Don’t forget about: Wide receiver Trey Metoyer, who was the star of last spring as a true freshman. Metoyer, however, failed to carry that momentum into the fall, lost his starting job and eventually fell out of the rotation. A new year and new quarterback should re-energize Metoyer, who has all the tools to become a dominant outside receiver.

On the mend: Guards Tyler Evans and Nila Kasitati, who are both coming off season-ending knee injuries. Both, however, are hoping to be at least limited participants in the spring, which would spur them into summer workouts.
It’s been a surprise to see Oklahoma freshman defensive ends Charles Tapper and Mike Onuoha play themselves out of redshirt seasons.

That doesn’t mean they’re become difference-makers quite yet.

“The more they play, the better they’re going to get,” defensive ends coach Bobby Jack Wright said following Monday’s practice in preparation for OU’s opener against UTEP on Saturday. “They’re like newborn colts, running around out there, legs going everywhere, they look like they just hit ground. The more they get to play, the more they get to see it, they’re going to be good players.”

Michael Onuoha
Bob Przybylo/ESPN.com Freshman Mike Onuoha is listed as a backup defensive end on the depth chart.
Tapper and Onuoha are likely to see their first collegiate action this week, particularly if the Sooners get a big lead against UTEP.

• Wright updated the status of P.L. Lindley (high ankle sprain) and Chaz Nelson (MCL injury) on Monday.

“Those guys won’t be ready this week,” Wright said. “Hopefully we’ll get PL Lindley back next week. And Chaz, I’m going to guess, would be after the open date, Kansas State maybe. That’s just a guess. If he’s back before that, that would be great from a depth standpoint.”

With those two players out, Tapper, Onuoha and Rashod Favors will backup Chuka Ndulue and R.J. Washington at defensive end.

• Even though defensive tackle Stacy McGee’s suspension changed things on OU’s defensive line, particularly with the move of David King to defensive tackle, it didn’t change things for everyone.

“Even before then Coach Stoops told me, I need to be ready to play this year,” defensive tackle Jordan Phillips said.

There are high hopes for Phillips, who could be the most athletic defensive lineman on the squad. The redshirt freshman said he is nervous for his first game in crimson and cream but teammates have told him just to study film and be prepared because knowing what he’s doing will lessen the nerves come Saturday night.

• Early in preseason camp, cornerback Aaron Colvin wasn’t happy with his play. Coach Bob Stoops and defensive coordinator Mike Stoops had lauded his efforts but the junior said he needed to “step it up” at the time.

On Monday, Colvin said he’s ready.

“I feel like I’m doing the things I want to do,” he said. “I want to over-exaggerate everything I’m doing this year and I feel like I wasn’t doing that at first, maybe because I wasn’t as comfortable. I’m comfortable now in the defense and in the schemes.

“I’ve been doing the things I need to do to be that great corner I need to be.”

During Bob Stoops weekly press conference on Monday afternoon, the OU coach said he’d put Colvin up against Jamell Fleming, who was a third-round draft pick in the 2012 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals, noting he didn’t feel like the Sooners lost much with Colvin stepping into Fleming’s starting cornerback spot.

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NORMAN, Okla. -- It’s clear Mike Stoops wants to get more speed on the field during his first season back in Norman as Oklahoma’s defensive coordinator.

Cornerbacks have become safeties, safeties have become linebackers and linebackers have become defensive ends. Two of the latter are P.L. Lindley and Rashod Favors, two former linebackers who are battling to earn playing time at defensive end.

“P.L. Lindley and Rashod Favors are really starting to come on. They’re strong guys who can run pretty good,” defensive ends coach Bobby Jack Wright said. “They’re giving us some pretty good depth at that position. Size-wise they aren’t your prototypical defensive ends. You wouldn’t recruit those guys as defensive ends but they’re athletic enough they are going to be able to help us.”

Lindley (6-foot-2, 240 pounds) is a redshirt freshman and Favors (6-1, 250) is a redshirt sophomore.

“They're average as linebackers but you move them to defensive end and they’re pretty fast for defensive ends,” Wright said. “And they’re big enough they can hold their own in there. They’re big enough and strong enough. Rashod is one of the strongest guys on the football team. He’s like second in the bench press, so he’s strong guy who can run.”

With David King, R.J. Washington, Chaz Nelson and freshmen Mike Onuoha and Charles Tapper, the Sooners have six defensive ends battling to earn playing time this fall. For Lindley and Favors, getting familiar with the demands of a new position could be the difference between playing or learning from the sidelines.

“The problem you face is taking two guys who played a different position,” Wright said. “There’s a learning curve. They’re working hard and they’re going to give us some quality depth.”

With the duo contributing to additional depth at defensive end, OU could have the option to bring back their four-defensive end package, a staple of the Sooners' defense on passing downs in 2011.

Practice Report: Stoops praises Brown 

August, 7, 2012
Wide receiver Justin Brown spoke with the media for the first time since transferring from Penn State. Brown flew in to Norman on Monday night, and was on the practice field Tuesday. Even though he wasn’t in pads with the rest of the team, Bob Stoops praised Brown effusively.

“He looked very impressive,” Stoops said. “I said to (wide receivers coach Jay) Norvell, ‘Wow, he going to be special here.’ ”

Stoops also said that Brown “absolutely” would return punts this season, and called him one of the top 10 punt returners in the country in 2011.

[+] EnlargeTom Wort
AP Photo/Orlin WagnerJunior linebacker Tom Wort has been fighting through various ailments during preseason practice.
Brown said it was “difficult” to leave his teammates at Penn State, but he’s excited to be at a tradition-rich school like OU with a quarterback who can sling the ball like Landry Jones. You could tell that Brown is fired up to play with a QB with Jones’ arm.

Per NCAA rules, Brown will be in shorts and shirts again tomorrow, then will be able to put on the pads.

More on Brown later.

• LB coach Tim Kish said that Tom Wort is less than 100 percent – not a good sign considering the Sooners have been in pads only a couple of days. Wort is battling an array of injuries, including to his back, shoulder and ankle – all injuries that Wort has dealt with in the past. Kish said he’s giving Jaydan Bird equal reps to try and keep Wort as fresh as possible.

Wort has been terrific when he has been healthy. He dominated the game against Florida State last season. But too often, Wort hasn’t been 100 percent. It’s looking like he might have to play hurt this season.

Right now, Kish is working Wort, Bird, Frank Shannon and Caleb Gastulem at middle linebacker, and Corey Nelson, Joe Iblioye, Aaron Franklin and true freshman Erik Striker at outside linebacker. Kish said that Striker would not be redshirting this season, and could play a lot of special teams. “He’s tough, physical,” Kish said.

• Bobby Jack Wright noted that seniors David King and R.J. Washington are having “a heck of a camp” so far. “I’m really pleased with them,” Wright said. But most of today’s discussion dealt with the younger players.

Wright said that Chuka Ndulue "has separated himself" as the clear No. 3 defensive end behind starters Washington and King. Ndulue came on late in the season last year and clearly applied himself in the offseason. He's relatively new to football but the Sooners feel really good about his upside and he seems to be starting to realize some of that potential.

Wright also said he wants to play true freshmen Charles Tapper and Mike Onuoha. In talking with Wright, Washington and others, those two are among the most talented players at the position. Even more impressive for Tapper, he didn’t even work out with the Sooners over the summer. Clearly, both guys have talent, so it will be the little things that decide if they play themselves out of a redshirt season. Either way, the future is bright at defensive end.

Wright also had glowing things to say about P.L. Lindley and Rashod Favors, who have moved to end from linebacker. He said the move had to do with their speed -- it's average for linebackers but excellent for defensive ends. He likes what they bring to the table.

It's pretty clear that Lindley, Favors and junior-college transfer Chaz Nelson are battling to be the Sooners No. 4 defensive end, but Tapper and Onuoha have the ability to make a run. The overall depth at the position is looking pretty good right now. Especially for a team replacing two NFL draft picks.

Aaron Colvin is pumped about his return to cornerback. It's the position he prefers to play and he said it feels more natural at that spot. He did note that he will do whatever is asked. In other words, he's not digging his heels in about remaining at the position. But he wants to be a corner. Said he wishes his teammates still referred to “Colvin Island,” which they termed when Colvin played the position as a freshman. He wants the one-on-one challenge.

Colvin is a difference maker at any position he plays. Don't be surprised if he joins Demontre Hurst to battle Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert and Brodrick Brown and Texas' Carrington Byndom and Quandre Diggs for the right to be called the Big 12's top cornerback duo. This is a great year in the Big 12 for corners.

• Colvin, like pretty much every other Sooner who has been asked, had glowing things to say about Sterling Shepard. "He's the real deal," Colvin said.

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Bob Przybylo answers readers' questions about Oklahoma football and basketball recruiting in his mailbag every week. Got a question for Bob? Send it to his mailbag at bprzybyloespn@gmail.com.

SoonerNation subscriber charlescitymosaic asks: It seems to me we should have pushed harder upfront with the local kids (Texas) and not so hard on the nationwide aspect. I could be wrong, but it looks like our philosophy this year bit us in the butt.

Bob Przybylo: This aspect of OU’s recruiting is going to be scrutinized immensely at all times. I still think it’s working. I do think the toughest part of evaluating this national recruiting state of mind is what makes it a success?

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In 2011, the Sooners defense leaned on one of the better defensive end combos in school history: Frank Alexander and Ronnell Lewis. The two combined for 14 sacks. Alexander earned Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors, and Lewis became a fourth-round draft pick of the Detroit Lions.

[+] EnlargeChuka Ndulue
Ty Russell/University of OklahomaSophomore Chuka Ndulue will be the Sooners' third defensive end in 2012.
Replacing their production won’t be easy, but Bob Stoops is confident in veterans R.J. Washington and David King. Both will be full-time starters for the first time in their careers as seniors, but Washington and King were critical pieces of OU’s “Endy” package – four defensive ends on the field at once – that was highly disruptive last season. Desping coming off the bench, Washington finished with five sacks and King recorded 31 tackles.

“They've played a lot of football for us,” Stoops said.

The Sooners will also lean on Chuka Ndulue, who emerged as the third defensive end in the spring over junior-college transfer Chaz Nelson and Geneo Grissom, who has since moved to tight end.

“We've got some young guys coming up,” Stoops said. “Chuka is doing an excellent job, and then even Michael Onuoha and Charles Tapper, two young freshmen that we're really excited about that we hope can jump in there help us some.”

Crimson Countdown: DE Chaz Nelson 

June, 18, 2012
During the summer months, SoonerNation will take a closer look at each scholarship player on Oklahoma’s roster in our Crimson Countdown series. We'll analyze each player’s impact on the program since they arrived on campus, their potential impact this fall and their long-term impact in the daily series. Starting with No. 1 Tony Jefferson, the series will go in numerical order until our final analysis of No. 98 Chuka Ndulue.

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It’s going to take a while before junior college transfer Chaz Nelson gets comfortable with the speed of the game at the Big 12 level.

Nevertheless, Oklahoma defensive ends coach Bobby Jack Wright expects Nelson to be able to help the Sooners immediately.

“He’s a good addition, he’s going to be a good, solid player for us,” Wright said. “He’s got a learning curve he’s having to deal with as well [but] he brings some toughness and he really is a smart guy.”

Nelson’s ability to pick up the system quickly has helped convince Wright, and his teammates, that the 6-foot-3, 240 pound junior can earn some playing time in the Sooners defensive end rotation.

“He makes very few mental mistakes,” Wright said. “He seems to always have a good understanding of what we’re asking.

“I really like where he’s at.”

DE Geneo Grissom getting healthy

April, 13, 2012
Bob Stoops said Thursday that defensive end Geneo Grissom, who has missed most of the spring with a stress fracture in his foot and remains in a boot, should be healthy in time to participate in summer workouts.

Ironically, Grissom missed his true freshman season with a stress fracture, but on the other foot.

"He must have a little bit of a genetic defect there," Stoops said. "We knew he had one in the winter and we were hoping just to get through spring and then fix it and it just popped on him doing some of the drills he did."

It remains to be seen whether Grissom will be able to play himself into the top-four of the rotation. Chuka Ndulue and junior-college transfer Chaz Nelson are also vying for playing time behind projected starters R.J. Washington and David King.

"This was a time that you would think Geneo would jump forward and make a big jump. I thought he would,” said ends coach Bobby Jack Wright. “He had a really good winter and we thought he was on the verge of coming out this spring and really showing he was going to compete for a lot of playing time and I think he still will in the fall."

Chat wrap: Kenny Stills in the slot?

April, 10, 2012

SoonerNation writer Jake Trotter chatted with readers Monday. Here's the full transcript. If you didn't get your question answered, send it to Jake's mailbag to be published on Friday.

Here are a few highlights from the chat:

Jess (Oklahoma): Thoughts on Chaz Nelson and the D-line as a whole?

Jake Trotter: I think Chaz will help. His speed gives the position a change of pace off the sidelines. The starters there, though, will be King and R.J., with some combination of Walker, McGee and McFarland starting at tackle. The line has a chance to be good, but replacing Frank Alexander and Ronnell Lewis is not going to be easy.

Andy (OKC): Do u think Kenny Stills will play the slot receiver position this year?

Jake Trotter: I think that's a possibility, although I don't know if I see him as the full-time slot guy the way Broyles was. But with Metoyer coming on, they need to find a way to get both he and Stills on the field at the same time. That could require Stills sliding to the slot on occasion.

Adam (Wagoner, OK): What do you see as the biggest positive and negative to this upcoming team?

Jake Trotter: Positives: Veteran QB, several potential playmakers, veteran line, battle-tested LBs, 3 stars in the secondary; Negatives: No proven No. 1 WR, injury prone RBs, no experienced TE, questionable as to whether there are any difference makers on the d-line, return game.

Joshua (Lawton): With a QB corps of Blake Bell, Drew Allen, Kendal Thompson, Trevor Knight, and potentially Brayden Scott/Kelly Hilinski...which QB is most likely to transfer?

Jake Trotter: I can't see any of them transferring. Allen will be a senior next year, it makes no sense for him to transfer if he loses the job to Bell. Bell could still start his senior year, even if he loses the job to Allen, and could still operate the Belldozer. Thompson could always play another position if QB didn't work out. Knight is the only QB in his class, and really the only upperclassmen he would have to beat out would be Thompson.

Chat wrap: Hope for OU tight ends

April, 3, 2012

SoonerNation writer Jake Trotter chatted with readers Monday. Here's the full transcript. If you didn't get your question answered, send it to Jake's mailbag to be published on Friday.

Here are a few highlights from the chat:

Michelle (Dallas): Give us your opinion on the new WR corp.

Jake Trotter: It's an exciting group that has a little bit of everything. Trey Metoyer reminds me of Dez Bryant the way he can go up and get the ball. Durron Neal
has a lot of savvy. Courtney Gardner is an athletic freak. Sterling Shepard
has Ryan Broyles pedigree. Metoyer could have the same first-year impact that Kenny Stills did two seasons ago. The others could factor in to the rotation, too, but we'll see.

Tony (Richmond, CA): Have you witnessed any hope for the TE position during spring ball? Also, was James Hanna underutilized last season? A TE running a 4.5 40 sounds like a matchup problem that could have been exploited more.

Jake Trotter: Yeah, I have hope. Brannon Green
seems to be serviceable, maybe more. But as you point out, TE is not a critical position in a Josh Heupel offense, far less so than a Kevin Wilson offense. James Hanna could be a steal in the draft. He has some measurables you can work with.

Glenn (Chicago): Jake...is the secondary or linebackers going to need more help? It looks like the linebackers are missing a lot of experience.

Jake Trotter: Tom Wort started all of last season and some two seasons ago. Corey Nelson has played a lot the last two years. So I don't know if experience is a worry at LB. Secondary is the bigger concern. There are some holes there that need to be addressed.

Steve (cali): what can you tell us about the DE position from the two scrimmages?

Jake Trotter: R.J. Washington is clearly the best DE on the team. He's been solid. David King has been nicked up but we know what he can do. Chaz Nelson has a lot of speed. He's going to help. Chuka Ndulue has been the best of the young guys.

While the Sooners are on spring break this week, SoonerNation will update readers on five position battles this spring. For today: Defensive line.

Developing a defensive line that is feared throughout the Big 12 is one of the focuses of the offseason at Oklahoma.

The Sooners need to replace Big 12 co-defensive player of the year Frank Alexander and NFL draft early entry Ronnell Lewis at defensive end, but rotation players R.J. Washington and David King return.

[+] EnlargeSeniors R.J. Washington (91) and David King (90) are expected to start at defensive end for the Sooners in 2012.
Jeff Moffett/Icon SMISeniors R.J. Washington (91) and David King (90) are expected to start at defensive end for the Sooners in 2012.
King and Washington have been impressive early this spring and appear to be on their way to securing key roles in the defense. Washington has consistently been named as one of the players who has stepped up and taken on leadership responsibilities since the end of the 2011 season.

“R.J. Washington has had a great winter,” OU coach Bob Stoops said when spring practices started. “He has really stepped up in leadership in what he is doing. That has been a real positive.”

King and Washington aren’t unquestioned starters, however. Chuka Ndulue came on during the final weeks of his redshirt freshman season.

“By the end of the year last year we were excited about his progress on the field,” Stoops said.

And junior college transfer Chaz Nelson has shown enough promise that he should be able to impact the OU defense immediately in the fall.

“He plays with great leverage,” left tackle Lane Johnson said. “He’s a juco guy, so he brings some maturity. He’s going to be a pretty good player for us. I think he can help contribute for sure.”

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Oklahoma will be the fourth Big 12 team (TCU, Texas, Texas Tech) to open spring camp when practice begins later Monday.

Here's a closer look and an idea of what to watch for.

Schedule: Oklahoma kicks off the first of its NCAA-allowed 15 practices Monday, leading up to the spring game on April 14. Practices are closed to fans and media.

What's new: The Sooners made the biggest Big 12 offseason acquisition when they brought back Mike Stoops as co-defensive coordinator. He dropped the "co-" after longtime coordinator Brent Venables took the DC job at Clemson after 13 years on Bob Stoops' staff in Norman. The Sooners will miss his presence, but hopes are high that Stoops can revitalize an Oklahoma defense that paved the way for the Sooners' last national title back in 2000, coordinated by none other than Stoops. He was fired by Arizona in the middle of the 2011 season, his eighth at Arizona.

New faces: Stoops is obvious, but Oklahoma is also welcoming six freshman or junior college transfers this spring to get practice time in before the 2012 season. Tight end Taylor McNamara and 2011 signee Trey Metoyer highlight the group. McNamara was the nation's No. 2 tight end and Metoyer was the nation's No. 8 receiver and No. 51 overall prospect in the 2011 class. He enrolled in military school after failing to qualify last fall, and could help boost a receiving corps in need of reinforcements. Junior college transfers Kass (pronounced "KAHss") Everett, Brannon Green and Chaz Nelson join 2011 signee Jordan Wade on campus this spring, too. Tight ends McNamara and Green should have some impact. Oklahoma returns no tight ends from its 2011 team, thanks to injuries and player exits.

Big shoes to fill: Kenny Stills. Ryan Broyles tore his ACL late last season, and the Sooners' receivers disappointed in the absence of the FBS all-time leader for receptions. The offense was punchless in an embarrassing blowout loss to Oklahoma State with the Big 12 title on the line. Especially without Jaz Reynolds (kidney) this spring, Stills need to prove he can be a reliable, top-tier receiver for Oklahoma's Big 12 title dreams to come true in 2012.

On the move: Safety Tony Jefferson. How will Jefferson be used in Stoops' defensive scheme? It's a big question for the Sooners. Jefferson's one of the team's most talented players, but he moved around a lot in 2011, seeing time at nickel back and moving to traditional safety after Javon Harris had some high-profile struggles in the loss to Baylor. Jefferson can play and excel at both spots. What the rest of OU's defense looks like depends on where he plays.

Question marks: What does OU's running back spot look like? Dominique Whaley is still rehabbing after breaking his ankle midseason, an injury that birthed the Belldozer formation. Backup quarterback Blake Bell rushed for 13 touchdowns in the second half of the season, but look for Oklahoma to try and find a way to run between the tackles more traditionally this spring. Who can be the man? Brennan Clay, Roy Finch and Danzel Williams are the only healthy scholarship running backs for the Sooners. Will we see fullback Trey Millard get some run, too?

All eyes on: The defense. Quarterback Landry Jones actually played well in a loss to Baylor, but Oklahoma's defense was clearly the weak link in losses to Texas Tech, Baylor and Oklahoma State that turned a year with national title aspirations into an average 10-3 season that finished in the Insight Bowl. The defense played well in the bowl win over Iowa, but Iowa's offense is nothing like what awaits the Sooners in the always-dangerous Big 12. Mike Stoops' work is cut out for him.

Spring position preview: Defensive end 

February, 23, 2012
Defensive end was one of the strengths of Oklahoma’s defense in 2011. Frank Alexander was consistent and productive during his senior season while Ronnell Lewis used his unmatched athletic ability to terrorize Big 12 offenses.

But Both players are gone.

Competition will be the name of the game at defensive end this spring as several players -- some with experience, some with potential -- will battle to replace Alexander and Lewis in the starting lineup.

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Stoops, Players Want To Effect Change
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops sits down with Gene Wojciechowski to discuss his team's stand against racism.