Now, with Ryan Reynolds and Keenan Clayton both out of eligibility, it’s Lewis who is the veteran and leader of a host of young, talented, but relatively inexperienced linebackers.
Lewis answered a few questions about himself, and the young bunch of Ronnell Lewis, Tom Wort, Jaydan Bird and Dan Franklin following OU’s third spring practice:
How are the younger guys doing?
“They’re doing good. They surprise me every day. In the film room, they want to learn. It’s fun seeing them develop and become good players. When I leave, I’m not worried. Jaydan, Ronnell, Tom, they could all potentially be starters. So, they’re coming along great.”
Seems it wasn’t long ago we were talking about you being the young linebacker. Now, you’re the elder statesman. Seem like it’s been a quick turnaround?
“It actually seems like a long time ago. It feels like it was forever. But I feel I like I’ve been through the system. I feel like coach V doesn’t have to coach me. I pretty much know the system. I can go out there and call the defense with confidence.”
What do you want to show those young guys?
“I’m just trying to show them how to work, how to prepare. Being a leader, being vocal on the field. In the film room, sit up front, ask all the questions that need to be asked. Learn how to prepare for game situations.”
We’ve seen flashes from the young guys, but what is the upside with this corps?
“Working out with them, how strong they are, how fast they’ve developed, it’s amazing to see. To see how strong and explosive they are. That’s why I’m not worried about them. They’re going to be great players. They all could potentially be starters. Good to see how far they’ve come.”
How is Tom doing, coming back for the ACL tear?
“Tom is doing well. The knee isn’t bothering him. He looks like the Tom of old. Flying around, missing a couple tackles, making plays. He’s looking good. The knee doesn’t look like it’s bothering him.”
What stands out about Ronnell?
“Man, he’s strong. When he first got in here, he (benched) 315, like 10-12 times. The other backers, we’re doing 275. Just his strength. Line him up, put him up against a tight end and let him go to work. He has that strength. All he needs to do is get in that film room and learn the defense. That’s the hardest part. He already has all the physical traits to make him a special player. But that’s only half the battle. The other half is getting in the film room and learning the defense. He’ll come along. He’s come a long way since he first got there, not being able to answer questions. He can answer a few questions now. He’s getting better.”
What’s it like watching his special teams hits in the film room?
“Looking bad, that one A&M hit, when he gave that guy a concussion. The guy got up, fell down, got up and fell down again. Coach Stoops went back and watched it with all the guys. It was just like, dang. Because I saw it live, I saw it happen, but it’s another thing seeing it on film. He’s a pretty special player. He’s got the physical part down. That’s not his problem. Striking people, that’s natural for him. That’s half the battle. Coaching him up, that’s the other half. He’ll get it. He wants to learn. He’s in the film room, he’s paying attention.”
Last year, the rotation at linebacker was pretty much set, with you at the weak side, Ryan in the middle, and Keenan on the strong side. This spring, is coach Venables trying some different combinations to find the right fit?
“That Mike and that Sam are wide open. Coach V said it many times. He’s looking for that one who steps up and stamps his name on that position. I think he feels nobody has really done that yet. Box is a veteran, played in the system. But coach V is letting Tom run with me, and those guys are rotating at Sam. It’s up for grabs and up to those guys to go get it.”
Suffice to say then, you’ll for sure be staying on the weak side?
“Yeah, that’s where I’m gonna be.”
Follow Jake Trotter on Twitter: @Jake_Trotter.