Ronnell Lewis Is Ready to Pack Punch to D

Strong side linebacker Ronnell Lewis formed a reputation last year of being one of the nation's hardest hitters heading into the 2010 season, but to a lot of people's surprise, the 6-foot-2, 240 lb. stud, who grew up playing eight man football, hasn't seen the field a whole lot so far this season.

In fact, the coaching staff didn't even give him one defensive snap last week in OU's 27-24 victory over the Air Force Falcons.

"I don't know [why]," Lewis said. "Once again, that's up to the coaches, and if they'd put me in, I'd have went in. I don't know what really happened, what I did or anything, but it was their decision, and I guess whatever they had in mind worked."

It might have worked in the win-loss column, but it didn't in terms of OU's defensive performance, as they gave up 458 yards of total offense to the Falcons, and it certainly didn't work towards pleasing the sophomore, who's both anxious to get out on there and frustrated he hasn't been more.

"A little bit [frustrated]," Lewis said. "But I mean I've got to hold my composure about it and just let it happen. I can't let it get to my head."

He continues to insist like most players do that he's just prepared to provide his role for the team.

"You know, I'm part of the team," Lewis said. "And you know, as long as we're winning and, you know, I'm helping the team out, [I'm satisfied]. I'm not a selfish person. You know, I'd rather do my part and you know hold my own. So, I just got to do it for the team."

There's always the part about being patient and waiting to sort of assume a major role, and he understands that.

"Just a little bit, but, you know, I know my time will come and you just got to be patient like you said," Lewis said. "And hopefully it will work out and good things will happen. You know, I just can't let it get to my head. I mean, you know, I obviously I got something to store and just ready to get out there and shine and do my thing and, you know, show them, ‘Hey, I could have been doing this.'"

But that doesn't take away the frustration of wanting to be on the field now, especially not for a guy that's been working in several different positions, including SAM linebacker and defensive end.

"I mean, it's a lot to work on when you're at every position," Lewis said. "I mean, of course, you know, a guy is going to mess up here and there. I would say just dropping it sometimes. I mean, it's a mental game. You just got to get out there and do it the best you can."

Lewis, since he's made the switch to working some at defensive end, has been envisioned by many as a possible replacement for star defensive end Jeremy Beal after he leaves OU.

"I wouldn't mind," Lewis said.

But there's something else to that.

"You know, that's speaking next year," Lewis said. "This is a brand new year, and I'm trying to get out there now. I mean, that would be two years down the drain, like where did it go? Where was I playing at? And that's just going to be in my mind the whole time, and I'm not waiting for next year.

"You know, I want to get out there and show them what I can do this year. But I wouldn't mind, you know, taking full role next year if that was to happen, but I'm trying to get out there now."

With that said, it begs the answer to a couple of questions.

First, what must he improve on in order to gain more playing time?

"I mean, the physical part's there and everything on the field takes care of itself," Lewis said. "I mean, that's just a natural instinct for any football player. You know, I watch the film. I study, and, you know, it's just some of the calls I might bust, but like I said before, like that's going to happen on the field. I mean, you got so much going at you [that] you might get tired, and, you know, [if] things aren't looking good, you might mess up. I would say that's some of it."

Second, does he still have a chance to perform a major role for this team.

"Yeah, I haven't heard wind of anything," Lewis said. "You know, I'm kind of lost in the situation, but I'm out there at practice every day just bringing it, trying to show them, ‘Hey, you know, that's what I'm trying to do and improve on every day in different positions.' And I don't know. I honestly don't know."

There is good news for him.

And it comes in the form of comments made this week by head coach Bob Stoops and defensive ends coach Bobby Jack Wright.

"He's working his way to being that," Stoops said. "Ronnell is a very good talent, and I think it's just gaining, continuing to gain the trust. What isn't talked about a lot is Ronnell has missed a lot due to academic reasons in the spring and in the summer and two-a-days and due to an ankle injury, so some of that is still gaining the time on the field and practice and discipline in practice and to continue to trust him."

All the intangibles are there.

"Ronnell works hard," Stoops said. "He's got a great attitude, and so again it's just finding what works best for him and where we can, you know, have the most trust in him as well."

Wright brought another positive to the table, guaranteeing more playing time.

"He's worked with me every day [this week] at defensive end," Wright said. "And he's getting better and, you know, he'll play a bunch this week against Cincinnati, so, you know, most of it will be at defensive end. We'll play him some at linebacker in our dollar package. We'll continue to do that, and we'll have our dollar package on the field a little bit more this week. You know, so he'll be ready to go."

Perhaps now will be the time for Lewis to shine and show he belongs more in the rotation.

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