OU football: This week will determine a lot about Ronnell Lewis' pro future

Will NFL teams see the Dewar native as an end or linebacker? He's listed as an end, but the 6-foot-2, 245-pounder might be evaluated as an outside linebacker.
BY TRAVIS HANEY, Staff Writer, thaney@opubco.com Published: February 19, 2012
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NORMAN — If things had gone differently, we would have been talking at length this week about Landry Jones at the NFL Combine. It would have been a vitally important week for the quarterback and his draft stock.

Instead, we'll have that conversation a year from now, since Jones decided to return to school for his senior season.

While that might take some of the luster off this week's combine, if you're an Oklahoma fan, there is of course still a Sooners influence on the proceedings in Indianapolis.

It's a particularly intriguing time for Ronnell Lewis, the former OU linebacker and defensive end.

That's a good place to start: Will teams see the Dewar native as an end or linebacker? He's listed as an end, but, at 6-foot-2 and 245 pounds, most teams are evaluating him as an outside linebacker.

The reality is Lewis struggled in college to pick up the X's and O's at linebacker. So he eventually moved forward to end, where he could “just rush,” more often than not. And you saw in 2011 the kinds of fruits that simplification could produce.

Lewis was a first-team All-Big 12 performer. He went from 37 tackles as a sophomore to 60 as a junior, taking his tackles for a loss from five to 13½ — among the league leaders.

And that was in 10 games. The Sooners played without Lewis after the early part of the Nov. 19 loss at Baylor, due to a knee sprain and academic shortcomings.

After the bowl game, OU coach Bob Stoops said he was not sure what sort of prospect Lewis would be, if he were a first-rounder. I've long contended that this is the week in which Lewis would turn enough heads to athletically establish himself as a first-round-type player.

ESPN's Scouts Inc. currently has given Lewis an 85, meaning it sees him as second-round talent — but that could very well change this week.

The NFL will see the rawness, but it will also note the extraordinary physical attributes that make Lewis special. And, as you've probably noticed, it's those types of things that ultimately launch a guy up draft boards.

Someone will see Lewis' “projectability,” see him as some sort of hybrid. As 2011 illustrated, he's a player you want rushing the quarterback. That's a commodity that's been highly valued in the League for a couple of decades, since LT.

Including Lewis, here are five former Big 12 standouts on which to keep an eye at this week's combine. (Television coverage begins Saturday on the NFL Network.)

*Robert Griffin III, Baylor QB (Scouts Inc. score: 96)

His star has been on the rise, really, for years – and that last-minute rally against OU did not hurt a thing, as far as catching scouts' attentions. (You might recall that Broncos VP John Elway was present.)

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