Lehman says the sky is the limit for OU in '03

Oklahoma junior linebacker Teddy Lehman talks about OU's offseason progress and the Sooners' expectations for next season. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

NORMAN, Okla. — Oklahoma senior linebacker and Butkus Award candidate Teddy Lehman talked with James Hale last week about the Sooners' summer workouts and their expectations for next season.

JH: A lot of the preseason magazines have you guys ranked No. 1 in the country, as well as your linebacking corp. You'd rather be there then anywhere else wouldn't you?

TL: "It's nice for people to respect you, and to know that your hard work has paid off. As a team we enjoy that, but we also know that the only place to go from No. 1 is down. It's a lot harder to stay at No. 1. It's a lot easier to come up through the ranks and be the best at the end of the season then it is to hold it the whole time. There's some pressure on us to be great, but that's what we thrive on."

JH: But nothing else is really acceptable here is it?

TL: "No, it isn't. That's the standard Coach Stoops has set here. We haven't had the great years the last two seasons. They're not looked at as wasted years, but we should have done it. There are the questions about what if we did this or what if we did that, and we hate having those at the end of the season."

JH: Do you sense that the preparation is the same now as it was the summer before your national championship year?

TL: "We've got a lot of good leaders, and that's one of the things about the year we won it. There were a lot of seniors who had been there and were dedicated and really wanted to go out and get it. And that's what we've got going this year."

JH: When you think back to the day that OU offered you at their summer camp four years ago, isn't it pretty amazing where you are now?

TL: "You never believe it, and while it's happening you never notice it. It's one of those things where you look back at it someday and think, ‘Man, I put in a good run there.' I've come a long way and it's been a great ride."

JH: Talk about the other guys in your linebacking corp.

TL: "Everyone knows how good Lance (Mitchell) is. Lance is unbelievable. He works hard and he wants to be a great player, and of course he is a great player."

JH: What about Lance makes him a great player?

TL: "His toughness. He's real competitive. He wants to win and he wants to be out there."

JH: What about Pasha Jackson?

TL: "Pasha loves to be out there on the field and making plays. He loves having fun while he's playing. He's a big, physical guy. The thing that makes him so good is he wants to be out there on the field."

JH: Talk about the younger guys.

TL: "We've got tons of guys who can play. Rufus (Alexander) can find the ball. He's going to be a great player. Gayron Allen has been here a while in the system. He's probably the best technique guy around. Wayne Chambers is coming up. He works hard. This summer, and in two-a-days, we're going to have a chance to come out and be real deep at linebacker."

JH: How are the seven-on-seven drills going?

TL: "It's going good. The offense looks good. The defense is working good together."

JH: Who has been impressing you throwing and catching the football?

TL: "Mark Clayton is catching the ball for sure. He looks great. Brandon Jones looks unbelievable out there. Chris Chester is starting to look good. Jason (White) is throwing ball real well. Brent (Rawls) is throwing the ball well. We have some guys fighting for positions everywhere, not just at quarterback. That's what you want on a good team."

JH: How good can this team be?

TL: "We can be real good. We've got the athletes and talent that they sky's the limit. It's whether or not we come together as a team and do all the little things it takes to win."

JH: Is winning the Butkus something that's on your mind right now?

TL: "No, it's not. I wish they didn't even have those awards or talk about them during the season. You hate to be thinking about that when you're getting ready for bowl games. You don't think about that stuff at all."

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