Linebackers are back at OU

Would linebackers return to being used at Oklahoma? The answer was an emphatic yes in the season opener.

NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops had preached it all camp. There were going to be linebackers on the field for the Sooners.

Saying it is one thing, but everybody needed to see it to believe it.

Nearly 85,000 fans saw it. ULM certainly believed it. And the linebackers certainly made their impression as OU cruised to a 34-0 victory in both teams' season opener Saturday.

There were times last year when no linebackers were on the field. Mike Stoops said he imagined at least two on the field at all times earlier this week. The Sooners came out with three in Corey Nelson, Frank Shannon and Eric Striker.

Last year saw the leading tackler be somebody in the secondary too many times. It was back to OU tradition with Nelson and Shannon leading the way.

"I thought they were great," Stoops said. "Corey and Frank – it's nice to see our two leading tacklers as the linebackers. I think that's a good indication. That's the way it's supposed to be. I'm happy for both of those guys. They played hard and prepared well and really played good football."

Nelson had eight tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack, while Shannon had seven stops and one tackle for loss. Striker, in his first start, only had one tackle, but OU coach Bob Stoops said Striker was one of the best performers of the night.

The shutout wasn't the goal of the defense, but it means a lot to Nelson and the defense following the conclusion of last season.

"It feels amazing," Nelson said. "Especially after that loss in the Cotton Bowl, to come out here and get a shutout in the season opener is an amazing feeling. We have to keep that chip on our shoulder, remain hungry and always be humble in everything that we're doing."

The defense limited ULM to a mere 166 yards of total offense and never let the Warhawks get into any kind of rhythm.

One game doesn't make a season, but it's the start Nelson and the linebackers wanted. It's the start the group needed.

"Making plays – that's what linebackers at the University of Oklahoma are supposed to do," Nelson said. "Now we have to continue to build on that confidence."

ULM quarterback Kolton Browning had no answers for the OU defense, completing 20 of 39 passes for 128 yards and an interception. The middle of the field was never open as Nelson, Shannon and Striker clogged it up all night.

"We made it uncomfortable for him," Mike Stoops said. "We hit some good calls on boot and play action passes where we got up in his face. They knew he was an outstanding player. We gave him our best shot tonight."

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