Defensive back Jonathan Nelson brings exactly that to the table, and he’s proven it throughout fall camp.
The 5-foot-11, 188 lb. senior has been working at both the corner and safety positions, and in the latest updated depth chart, he’s listed as the starting strong safety.
But he said the specific position doesn’t really matter as long as he’s contributing.
“I mean, I like playing defensive back, so I’m not really worried about a corner or a safety or, you know, whichever specifically position I’m playing,” Nelson said. “You know, it’s just a more so whatever the coaches want me to play at whatever given time and whichever situation, and, you know, I’m just trying to help out like whichever way possible.”
And right now he’s definitely doing that in preseason practice by flipping back and forth between corner and safety.
“Yeah, it’s been about half and half, just flip flopping just wherever they want me at one time,” Nelson said. “You know, Coach [Bob] Stoops halfway through practice will tell me to go to corner, and then [defensive backs] coach [Willie] Martinez halfway through practice will tell me to go to safety, and then Coach [Venables], and it’s just whatever the case may be at the time.”
It takes a unique player to be able to rotate between the two, but Nelson said it’s not anything that’s really too mentally challenging.
“Well, you know, like this being my fifth year, I’ve sat through so many meetings of coaches talking to this guy and that guy when I’m not at that position,” Nelson said. “By now it’s not just a huge mental challenge. It’s more so worrying about, ‘Okay, at this position, I have to worry about my technique here. When I’m safety, I have to make sure that I get my dip in this certain coverage. When I’m at corner, I have to make sure that my backfield is this and that.’ It’s more so technique than it is mental.”
And if anyone can pick it all up, it’s Nelson, who has battled through things during his career.
“I mean as much adversity as I’ve been [through] with injuries and just this and that on the field, just whatever the case may be, just finally being able to contribute, show that you can go from like as deep down in the doghouse as I was to actually being able to help the team out [is rewarding],” Nelson said.
That’s something he can model to the younger defensive backs and others on the team.
“Oh yeah, you know, I’ve told guys, unnamed guys, like throughout the years like, ‘Hey, just stick in there. Don’t like [give up],’” Nelson said. “Like whenever a guy may get his head down, I’m saying stick in there because, you know, if I did it then you can do it.”
So as the Sooners head into this fall, Nelson’s versatility should give them a huge leg up in the secondary.
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