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Jenni Carlson: Sooners will carry on if ‘The Hammer' Ronnell Lewis is ineligible

by Jenni Carlson Published: August 8, 2011

NORMAN — Ronnell Lewis was first man up in the Oklahoma Drill.

No surprise there.

The big hitter nicknamed The Hammer jumped into the famed drill right away at the end of practice Monday. He went against Daryl Williams, giving up four inches and nearly 70 pounds, but he shed the mountainous offensive lineman, snagged the running back and made the tackle.

Never mind that Lewis lost his helmet in the process.

The Sooners want more of that this season.

Will Lewis be able to oblige?

No one knows. Not Bob Stoops. Not Brent Venables. Not even Lewis himself. The Oklahoma defensive end needed to pass some hours this summer to be eligible this season, and while classes concluded Friday, grades have yet to be posted.

The drama is the only dark cloud hanging over a lovefest of a preseason for these Sooners. Coaches love these guys, picking them as the top-ranked team in all the land in their preseason poll. Media types love them, too, choosing them as the top team in the conference and dubbing Sooners as the Big 12's preseason offensive and defensive players of the year.

But what about The Hammer?

“I don't really want to get into that conversation,” Lewis said Saturday during the team's media day. “It's not up to me right now. It's in others' hands.

“I just have to wait for the outcome.”

Losing Lewis would be a blow to the Sooners. He looks like a star in the making, a hard-hitting, ball-hawking guy who made everybody's preseason first-team all-conference squad despite starting only four games last season.

Sooner coaches wanted him on the field so badly last season that they created a hybrid position for him. Lewis couldn't quite figure out everything at linebacker, but once he moved to a spot that was a defensive end/linebacker combo, he flourished.

He had a career-high eight tackles at Oklahoma State, then seven against Nebraska in the Big 12 championship game.

But truth be told, if Lewis is ineligible this season, the Sooners might miss him more on special teams than they will on defense.

Part of that is because of how good Lewis is on special teams. He is a terror on kicks and punts. His see-ball, crush-ball carrier mentality makes him a superstar on the coverage teams.

Sooner fans have been known to stay until the end of blowouts just to watch him blow up returners.

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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