Texas's Alex Anderson, Poona Ford and Chris Nelson walk off the field after losing to Kansas in overtime in Lawrence, Kansas on Saturday, November 19, 2016. Kansas beat Texas 24-21. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

BEVO BEAT Football

The Texas 22: Starting at defensive tackle — Chris Nelson

Posted August 29th, 2018

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Story highlights
  • Nelson arrived in the same signing class Poona Ford. Now he enters his final season at Texas starting in Ford's old spot.

We’re breaking down Texas’ starting lineup. We’re doing two a day, one offensive and one defensive player, in alphabetical order on both sides.

Chris Nelson

Senior defensive tackle, 6-1, 315

High school: Lakeland (Fla.)Victory Christian

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Signing class: 2014

Career games: 31

Career starts: 15

Career numbers: 70 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 3 sacks

Who he was — before Texas

Nelson was a three-star recruit who signed in 2014, the first cycle for Charlie Strong, who used his Florida recruiting connections to land Nelson late in the cycle to improve depth on the interior of Texas’ defensive line.

Nelson, who signed in the same class as former lineman Poona Ford, didn’t receive a UT offer until a month before signing day. He visited Texas a week before signing day and signed Feb. 5 as part of a late run of recruiting gets for Strong’s first class.

Nelson spent most of his prep career playing end. He finished his career with 220 tackles and 15 sacks. He was ranked the No. 57 overall defensive tackle in the nation and the overall No. 828 prospect in the cycle, per 247Sports’ composite.

Texas defensive tackle Chris Nelson (97) breaks into the backfield against Iowa State in the second quarter at Royal-Memorial Stadium, Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

Who Nelson has been here — so far

Nelson is a senior tasked with replacing Ford at nose tackle. The big man from Florida enters the year with 15 starts in 31 career games played. He took a redshirt in 2014 before becoming a piece of the two-deep along the defensive line as a redshirt freshman in 2015. He finished that year with seven tackles and one sack.

Nelson began making a real impact as a sophomore. He started eight games, recording 45 tackles, six of those behind the line of scrimmage. His first career start came in the 2016 season opener against Notre Dame, earning Big 12 defensive player of the week honors after making eight tackles including 1.5 tackles for loss. Nelson started seven games in 2017, missing two games due to injury.

Who Texas needs him to be this season

When asked at Big 12 media days, Tom Herman insisted that it was unfair to compare Nelson with Ford. The players have different builds and skills. What the Longhorns need from Nelson, Herman said, is consistent play and leadership.

For his part, Nelson told reporters this summer that “Poon’s gone but I’m the next guy. I’m going to hold the fort down.” Nelson has experience in the middle of the line — he was UT’s starting nose tackle during that breakout performance against Notre Dame in 2016. If Nelson is healthy (an elbow injury limited him during spring practices) and can occasionally replicate those Notre Dame stats, the line will survive the loss of Ford.

Filling in the lineup

So far …

THE OFFENSE

QB: Former Westlake star Sam Ehlinger was born to lead the Longhorns

RB —

WR: Legacy Longhorn Collin Johnson wants to put it all together

WR: He catches, he runs; Lil’Jordan Humphrey gives UT versatility

WR: Jerrod Heard’s journey to wide receiver has been a winding one

TE: Andrew Beck is eager to return from last year’s injury

LT: Calvin Anderson is back where he started (playing football in Austin)

LG —

C —

RG —

RT: Derek Kerstetter may have arrived as a guard, but he’s a tackle now

THE DEFENSE

DE: Texas hopes Breckyn Hager can revert to the 2016 version of himself

DT: Chris Nelson, who signed alongside Poona Ford, now has Ford’s old starting spot

DL —

DE —

LB —

LB: Gary Johnson’s favorite destination spot? Wherever the ball is.

LB —

CB: Kris Boyd: Is the former Gilmer star ready to be UT’s alpha corner?

CB: Davante Davis gives Texas experience at the corner spot

NB: P.J. Locke III provides the Texas D with valuable experience

S: Brandon Jones enters Year 2 as a starter with defensive momentum

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