Ronnell Lewis returns to OU defense
Eligibility concerns hung over Lewis and Oklahoma throughout fall camp
If Ronnell Lewis was distracted during Oklahoma's 47-14 win over Tulsa last Saturday, it didn't look like it.
"He was our leading tackler and he had a sack, so I think he was pretty focused," defensive ends coach Bobby Jack Wright said. "Ronnell is going to improve week in and week out."
As OU prepares for its Sept. 17 showdown with Florida State, there's a chance Lewis could be even better against the Seminoles. And if he is, the junior will become a defensive force that must be accounted for on each and every play.
"I feel like I played pretty solid but I still have a lot of work ahead of me," Lewis said.
And now, he can finally focus on that work.
"It was a relief," Lewis said of the NCAA ruling. "I can't really put it into words how it felt when I heard. Just being out there with my teammates is what it is all about. I am just glad that I don't have to worry."
Watching Lewis on the Owen Field turf, terrorizing the Tulsa backfield, it's easy to forget the emotional toll the eligibility issue took on him during the summer.
His teammates certainly noticed.
"I could tell," defensive end Frank Alexander said. "You can look at a person and tell when they aren't themselves or if they are going through something. I know how people interact with us in the locker room, and if he's sitting off by himself I know something is going on."
Lewis can look ahead now to Florida State, and the Sooners will need him to be at his best against a Seminoles offense that features quarterback E.J. Manuel, a 6-foot-4 junior who threw for 252 yards and two touchdowns in FSU's 34-0 win over Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday.
"When he found out he was eligible, his whole mindset changed," Alexander said.
Lewis, who earned his nickname, "The Hammer," and a cult following for his devastating hits, played different positions and special teams during his first two seasons. He was just getting by on his athletic ability. Now, with a home at defensive end and his academic questions behind him, the Sooners know this could be a breakout season for Lewis.
"He already has a fast motor," Alexander said. "We have two weeks to prepare. So me and him will be in the film room and I've told him he can come to me [with questions]. I feel like he knows what is ahead of him. Once Ronnell knows what to do, he can play much harder."
Brandon Chatmon covers University of Oklahoma sports and recruiting for SoonerNation.
Follow SoonerNation's coverage on Twitter: Sooner_Nation
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