NORMAN, Okla. — Lance Mitchell was headed toward a possible Butkus Award and certain first round draft choice in the NFL draft when his ACL exploded on him in the third game of the season against Fresno State. Fortunately for Mitchell, the injury came early enough in the season that he was able to ask the NCAA for another year and was easily granted his wish.
Mitchell's rehab has gone well and he is so far ahead of schedule that he is going through most of the drills this spring. Mitchell is needed among that Sooner defense, because his experience will be a must with two newcomers vying for starting honors at both outside linebacker spots.
Mitchell has always been gracious with this reporter and despite being dog-tired after a recent Sooner spring practice, he agreed to sign down with OUInsider.com for the Two Minute Drill.
JH: Lance, you looked great at practice. And you don't look like you are coming of ACL surgery. How do you feel?
LM: "I am alright. I just worked hard with Coach Schmidt all season when everybody else was out on the field. I had all season to get ready, so I feel pretty good."
JH: Coach Venables always complements you because of your dedication to being ready, but it is that kind of business-like attitude that has actually made you what you are isn't it?
LM: "Most definitely. This is what I love to do, so this is what I am trying to do. I might as well grow up and be serious like all the other adults I know. This is a professional game out here and you have to stay professional to play it. You can't lose your poise or lose sight of what you are trying to accomplish and wander off."
JH: What has been the toughest part of coming back?
LM: "Just gaining the basic strength back in the leg has been pretty tough. Just trying to keep it easy and not do too much has been tough, because you want to do extra work or return so badly that you can rush yourself when you don't need to. You have to realize that you can always re-injure your knee and you need to keep with the pace of the rehab schedule, because recovery following surgery is always hard to do. You know me James, I tried to be back after two weeks, but the doc's wouldn't let me."
JH: They say the key to coming back from ACL surgery is regaining confidence in the knee. And watching you in pass coverage, it doesn't look as if you lack any confidence?
LM: "No, because we have been working in here (indoor facility) just about every day rehabbing my knee. The trainers have been making me do drills similar to what I do in pass coverage. They have been making me move my hips and push myself, and I have actually been confident in my running ability for a few months now."
JH: I know you are a quiet guy, but you are going to have to be a leader among the young linebackers who will be playing beside you. Are you comfortable with that?
LM: "Most definitely. I can handle it. I am quiet, but on the field I can get after it pretty good and off the field I can relax a little bit. That role is nothing and I will be able to take care of it."
JH: Are you looking forward to being a traffic cop for all the young linebackers and for all of those guys who are changing positions?
LM: "Right now I am just trying to get my mind back into the swing of things. And once I do that, it will be nothing to help these guys on the field."
JH: You do have some talent in your linebacker core don't you?
LM: "I know you have seen it. Lewis (Baker), Rufus (Alexander) and the other guys are going to be alright. I need them next to me on the field and ready to play. They can be the speed and I can be the power."
JH: A lot of stars are gone from last year's defense. Are you confident that the new guys will come along that can take their place? Is that something you worry about at Oklahoma?
LM: "No, you always have players that are going to be future stars. That is how all good programs are built. Don't worry about it, because or coaching staff and our team is going to work hard to get us where we need to be."
Two Minute Drill: Mitchell ready to be a leader
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