NORMAN, Okla. — Pasha Jackson and Lance Mitchell have been best friends since their first day as freshmen at San Francisco City College. It was Jackson who Mitchell called in Gainesville, Fla. when Mitchell learned that he wouldn't be eligible to play for the Gators. Mitchell asked Jackson to go ask Coach Brent Venables if OU still wanted him, and the rest is history as the two have started for the OU linebacker corp last year and this season.
OU Head Coach Bob Stoops confirmed today that Mitchell does have a torn ACL, but that his knee has no soreness or swelling at this point. This gives the Sooners a ray of hope that Mitchell might be able to play through the injury, but they are 95 percent sure that he will have surgery at the end of this week, because that is best for Mitchell's future.
After practice today I had a chance to sit down with Jackson and talk about Mitchell's injury and how it will affect the Sooners.
JH: You and Lance are very close, so his injury has to hurt you as well?
PJ: "It hurts a whole lot. Just getting here, and going here with him and then having plans on leaving here on time with him is all just tough to swallow right now. And now those plans are now gone. Even more than that, it is the different type of sacrifices that he is going to have to make right now individually with his knee that hits real hard with me. My heart goes out to him, but Lance is the type of guy who if his house burned down he would say that at least it didn't get stolen. He is going to find the brighter side of it and I wouldn't plan on him getting too down."
JH: We haven't had a chance to see or talk to Lance yet, so how is he doing?
PJ: "He is doing fine. He is staying mentally strong right now. Even when the body goes we have to keep strong mentally. He is the type of guy who will focus on just the positive aspects of the situation. He is actually getting angry with people who are being sad for him and he wishes that would stop. He is trying to find the brighter parts of the situation."
JH: Do you feel that you have some guys who can step up and do a decent job replacing Lance?
PJ: "With our linebacker corp every linebacker should be able to play every position. Your ‘Sam' should be able to play your ‘Mike' and your ‘Mike' to the ‘Will' and so on and so on. I am very confident with our linebacker corp and confident that those guys can get the job done. They were recruited by Oklahoma so I know they can play. The question is who is going to step in and do whatever job is needed?"
JH: You played middle linebacker at times during double sessions, so is that a possibility?
PJ: "Strongside is my position right now, but I am in the type of situation that I will play wherever the team needs me. So, if it is playing strongside that is fine, but as you know the strongside backer is not always in the game. I would love to try that ‘Mike' backer or do whatever is needed to help the team."
JH: Do you feel that you will work out there some this week?
PJ: "Sure, in practice I was still getting the ‘Mike' reps even when Lance was healthy. I am sure I will get some reps there now."
JH: Who do you feel will come through and take Lance's place?
PJ: "Well, you have the two's at his spot. Both Clint Ingram and Wayne Chambers are good players, and I would like to see both of those guys step up and do what is needed. We could also go with Gayron (Allen) at the ‘Will' and move Teddy (Lehman) to the ‘Mike'. A lot of people underestimate Gayron because of his body size, but Gayron is one of the most fundamental linebackers we have. He is a technician at his position and he has always been that way. He has always played well in our spring games and stuff. I am very comfortable with Gayron in the game. Teddy can play great at both the ‘Will' or the ‘Mike', so you could move Teddy inside and have Gayron play that ‘Will' position and they could get the job done."
JH: Is it just a case of the young guys needed live game experience?
PJ: "Yes, that is where it is. It is just not that, but we need to have people that are ready to play. A lot of guys don't have game experience right now, but we still need them to step in. It is just whether or not they can prepare themselves mentally."
JH: With Lance out what kind of mental adjustment will the defense have to make?
PJ: "Everybody will have to take their position more upon themselves. That is the D-tackles, D-ends, cornerbacks or whoever. Whenever you lose a strong presence or a strong position, you have to compensate for it. That goes for everyone, because we are a unit out there. So, with him gone the rest of us just have to be stronger and I am sure that we will do that."
JH: What about UCLA?
PJ: "They are a Pac-10 team that is a very talented squad. They like to throw the ball. Preparing for those guys is like preparing for Alabama in how they look at the line structurally. We respect them for their game and we will be playing for Lance throughout the game."
Jackson says OU will play for Mitchell vs. UCLA
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