Oklahoma Sooners: Travis Lewis

Colleague Brandon Chatmon looked at a few guys across the Big 12 who could be "The Next Johnny Manziel" yesterday, but really, those kinds of guys do exist. I will not be encouraging you to curb your collective enthusiasms today. Sometimes, players who haven't played a down of football in the Big 12 end up being some of the best players in the league.

Want a few examples, even from just the past few seasons? I'm glad you asked.

Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech, 2007: A position switch and transcript issues meant a redshirt season in 2006, but Crabtree had one of the greatest debut seasons in Big 12 history. He caught three touchdowns in his first game ever, and finished the season with 1,962 yards and 22 touchdowns on 134 catches. No Big 12 receiver has had more yards since, and he took home the Biletnikoff Award after leading the nation in receiving yards by 356 yards. His closest competition caught just 16 touchdowns, too.

[+] EnlargeSam Bradford
Nelson Chenault/US Presswire Sam Bradford had a stellar first season at Oklahoma.
Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma, 2007: Bradford narrowly beat out blue-chip recruit Keith Nichol and junior Joey Halzle to win the job after redshirting in 2006, and by the end of the season, he led the nation in quarterback rating, and no Big 12 quarterback was within 20 points of him. He threw for 3,121 yards, 36 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. He won the Heisman Trophy the following season.

Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor, 2008: Griffin committed to Houston first, but followed Art Briles to Baylor and electrified the crowd with early runs in a loss to Wake Forest. He eventually broke the FBS record for passes without an interception, and didn't throw his first until the ninth game of the season. It was clear he was the future of the program, and he finished the season with almost 3,000 yards of offense, accounting for 28 touchdowns.

Daniel Thomas, RB, Kansas State, 2009: Thomas joined the long line of junior college stars under Bill Snyder at Kansas State. Thomas arrived in Manhattan as an unknown and led the Big 12 with 1,265 yards and 11 touchdowns, showcasing great vision and toughness on the way to an eventual NFL draft selection. He led the Big 12 in rushing again in 2010, too.

Devonte Fields, DE, TCU, 2012: Fields was the Frogs' top recruit in 2012 as the nation's No. 73 overall player and the No. 11 defensive end. By the first week of October, he had 9.5 tackles for loss and cruised to earning the Big 12's Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Lavonte David, LB, Nebraska, 2010: He's one of the many Blackshirts' greats over the years, and made adjusting to life in the Big 12 from junior college look easy. He led the league with an eye-popping 152 tackles, and anybody who watched the Huskers every week might have sworn it was more. He was everywhere. He added 12.5 tackles for loss and six sacks, as well as eight pass breakups.

Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor, 2012: Seastrunk didn't get much time on the field for the first two months of the season, but once November arrived, he broke out in a huge way. The Oregon transfer was stuck behind Glasco Martin and Jarred Salubi on the depth chart, but earned the nod as the featured back heading into November, and rushed for 831 yards in Baylor's final six games, including an upset of No. 1 Kansas State in the Bears' 5-1 run to close the season.

Bruce Irvin, DE, West Virginia, 2010: Irvin's road was incredible, using junior college to turn his life around and earn his way to WVU after dropping out of high school. In his first season as a Mountaineer, he finished second nationally with 14 sacks, and forced a pair of fumbles.

Travis Lewis, LB, Oklahoma, 2008: Lewis redshirted his first season in Norman, but led the Big 12 with 144 tackles as a redshirt freshman, making 12 tackles for loss and intercepting four passes. It was the start of an incredible career. He led the Sooners in tackles for each of the next four seasons.

Best Sooners evaluations since 2006 

December, 18, 2012
Oklahoma has done a terrific job of evaluation since 2006. The 2010 NFL Draft proved the Sooners' ability to evaluate, recruit and develop players, as Sam Bradford, Gerald McCoy and Trent Williams, three of the top four selections, spent their college careers in crimson and cream. Some recruits are no-brainers, guys who any program would love to have on its roster, while others bring some level of uncertainty. Here are the top five evaluations by the Sooners since ESPN.com began thorough evaluation and ranking of recruits in 2006.

[+] EnlargeSam Bradford
Jerry Laizure/US PresswireOklahoma saw something in 2008 Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford early, recruiting him prior to his junior year of high school.
1. Quarterback Sam Bradford, Class of 2006: The former Oklahoma City (Okla.) Putnam City North standout wasn’t highly recruited out of high school. A multi-sport star, Bradford excelled at football, basketball and golf in high school before picking the Sooners over offers from Texas Tech, Iowa State and others.

OU career: Bradford won the 2008 Heisman Trophy during a record-setting season which included 4,720 passing yards and 50 touchdowns. He finished his career with 8.403 passing yards, 88 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Bradford was the No. 1 overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft.
Ryan BroylesBrett Davis/US PresswireFormer OU receiver Ryan Broyles was one of three Sooners to be drafted by Detroit in 2012.
From Steve Owens to Billy Sims to Barry Sanders, the Detroit Lions have always had an affinity for drafting players from Oklahoma. But never anything like this.

Over the weekend, the Lions drafted three players from OU -- receiver Ryan Broyles in the second round, defensive end Ronnell Lewis in the fourth and outside linebacker Travis Lewis in the seventh. It's believed to be the first time the Lions have taken three players from one school in the same draft since 1958.

SoonerNation quizzed Lions beat writer Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press (you can follow him on Twitter at @davebirkett) about this haul and how each Sooner might fit in Motown.

1. Was it simply coincidence the Lions ended up drafting three OU players, or was there something about OU that intrigued them?

Birkett: Coincidence. That's not to say they don't like and value Oklahoma players and the program - they do. But drafting Ryan Broyles, Ronnell Lewis and Travis Lewis was about each player's individual fit in Detroit more than their ties to Oklahoma. Still, it's impressive to think this is the first time in more than 50 years they've taken three players from one program in the same draft.

Matthew Emmons/US Presswire
Former OU linebacker Travis Lewis will need to stand out on special teams in the NFL.

2. The Lions obviously have needs on defense. Why then did they take Ryan Broyles with their second pick, and do they believe he'll be ready to go for minicamp?

Birkett: They caught a lot of flack from fans for passing on defensive needs to take Broyles in Round 2, but he was their highest-ranked player, they stuck with their board and he does fill a need as a No. 4 receiver. As for minicamp, no, it's doubtful he'll be ready next month and he could open training camp on the physically unable to perform list. They're deep enough at receiver they can bring him along slowly, but they expect him to contribute this fall.

3. How will Broyles fit in on an offense with so many receiving weapons already in place?

Birkett: Initially, Broyles will be the Lions' No. 4 receiver behind Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson and Titus Young. If he's healthy, he should handle punt-return duties, too - an area the Lions struggled in last year. Ideally, Broyles will be a weapon from the slot position for the next six or eight years.

4. The Lions run a 4-3, but given his skill set, seemingly everyone projected that Ronnell Lewis would be drafted into a 3-4 defense. How do you see the Lions utilizing Lewis in the 4-3?

Birkett: The Lions play their defensive ends in a wide-9 technique, so size isn't always an issue. It's more important that their pass rushers have a quick first step and the motor to pursue plays all over the field. Playing the run is secondary for the Lions' defensive line. Lewis might have a hard time cracking the rotation initially, but he should be a key contributor on all cover and return teams as a rookie.

5. What are the odds that Travis Lewis makes the team after falling all the way to the seventh round in the draft?

Birkett: Lewis probably has to earn a job on special teams, but he's got a shot to make the 53-man roster. The Lions return all three of their starters at linebacker and spent a fifth-round pick on Doug Hogue last year. Backup Ashlee Palmer has been a core special-teamer the last two years, and they traded up to get another linebacker, Tahir Whitehead, in the fifth round this year. Training camp will be important to Lewis.
Every weekday morning, a member of the SoonerNation gives his take on three things happening in the Sooner sports world.

1. Detroit must have liked what it saw in Norman this past season. The Lions took three Sooners in Ryan Broyles (2nd), Ronnell Lewis (4th) and Travis Lewis (7th). Detroit got excellent value in the Hammer, who some viewed as a potential early second round pick. It will be interesting to see what they do with Lewis though, since he projected out as a 3-4 outside linebacker. Detroit runs the 4-3. Right way, though, the Hammer will make a huge impact on special teams, which is something the Lions must have considered in selecting him. Broyles, meanwhile, couldn't have gone to a better situation. The Lions have a prolific offense, a stud QB and maybe the best WR in all of pro football. Broyles should be an instant starter in the slot, assuming he's healthy.

2. A few teams that might be interested in drafting Landry Jones next year: Arizona, San Francisco (remember: Jones beat Jim Harbaugh in the '09 Sun Bowl), Kansas City and Oakland.

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Where OU draftees ranked in high school 

April, 26, 2012
This weekend won’t resemble Oklahoma’s NFL draft class of 2010, when Sam Bradford, Gerald McCoy, Trent Williams and Jermaine Gresham all went in the first round.

That said, several Sooners with pro aspirations leave Norman with higher ESPN NFL draft rankings than high school recruiting rankings. Breaking down the OU draft class through that prism:

Frank Alexander

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Every weekday morning, a member of the SoonerNation gives his take on three things happening in the Sooner sports world.

1. The NFL draft begins tonight at 7 p.m, and though it’s unlikely any Sooners will hear their names called during the first round, there will be plenty of familiar names coming off the board. Oklahoma’s defense was much maligned late last season but Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, who torched the Sooners' secondary, is set to get selected No. 2 overall by Washington and Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon, who had 18 receptions for 200 yards and one touchdown in two games against OU, likely will be drafted in the top 10. ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper also has OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden going late in the first round. Clearly the Sooners weren’t the only team who struggled to stop Griffin or Weeden and Blackmon.

2. You have to wonder what it is like to be Landry Jones tonight. He could be walking across the stage to meet Roger Goodell, but instead he’s in class? There are several NFL teams looking for a quarterback in the draft and it’s easy to believe Jones would have been a top 10 pick if he had elected to declare early. Regardless, Sooners fans should be happy, they’ll have an NFL quarterback at the helm this fall, someone multiple NFL teams would love to have in their locker room.

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There will be no winners or losers in Saturday’s Red-White spring game. Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops said Tuesday that he doesn’t have enough healthy players at the moment to field two teams. In the past, the Sooners have held a draft, and divided into red and white teams. Two years ago, linebacker Travis Lewis predicted a shutout for his white team, then wore an all-white jumpsuit to the interview room after his side prevailed. This year, however, there will be no bragging rights.

“I don’t think numbers wise it’s feasible to go two opposite teams without a ton of guys shuffling back and forth,” Stoops said. “We’re going to go defense against offense, most of the time, good against good. So that’s how it’ll be.”

And how does he feel about there being no winner?

[+] EnlargeBob Stoops
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiOklahoma head coach Bob Stoops admits that next year's spring football game will likely be televised.
“You can’t help but win,” he said, “if you’re the only one playing.”

STOOPS ACKNOWLEDGED this would probably be the final time the Red-White game won’t be televised. Since 2005, Stoops has opted not to allow the spring game to be broadcast, but with the imminent launch of an OU network this fall, Stoops conceded the spring game would probably be televised on it in 2013.

Stoops said he considered giving permission for this year’s spring game to be televised, but opted not to allow it.

“Even this year, I probably could have agreed to it, then like I said, keep it more simple,” he said. “I believe in a lot of times, you know how you defend yourself and play defense and offense against yourself better than anyone, so why show everyone how you want to play yourself. In the end, I believe in that. You still get to see players execute and make plays or not make plays.

“I like when it’s really just fundamental, take schemes out of it, and then you get to see raw performance of guys making plays in tough situations.”

(Read full post)

Former Oklahoma linebacker Travis Lewis couldn’t have been happy with his 4.88 time in the 40-yard dash during the NFL Combine in late February.

He left the Sooners' pro day with a much better feeling.

Lewis recorded a 4.75 time in the 40-yard dash, 35-inch vertical, 10-inch broad jump, 7.23 three-cone drill, 11.59 60-yard shuttle and added 26 reps in the bench press. His 40-time would have put him just outside of the top 15 times at the NFL combine while his other times would have been amont the top ten results in each event at the combine except for the three-cone drill (top 15).

“I looked good, ran good, moved well, so I’m pretty satisfied,” Lewis said. “I’m finally healthy so it was good to come out and show these guys what I am capable of.

“I put it out there and now it’s up to [NFL teams] to make a decision.”

No time off for Broyles

While he couldn’t use the feet that helped distinguish him during his four seasons at Oklahoma, Ryan Broyles never stopped doing what he does best:

Catching the football.

While rehabbing from his ACL injury suffered during the Sooners win over Texas A&M last October, Broyles has spent the ensuing months catching tennis balls and footballs while rehabbing his injured knee.

[+] EnlargeTravis Lewis
AP Photo/Alonzo AdamsTravis Lewis was satisfied with his performance at Oklahoma's pro day.
“[I was] still catching balls, tennis balls, footballs,” Broyles said. “I gotta stay sharp with that, that’s my job... to catch it.”

Broyles also participated in portions of the NFL combine, going through interviews and recording 21 bench press reps at 225 pounds, which tied for third among receivers.

“People blow the combine up, but it wasn’t as stressful,” Broyles said. “[It’s] long days, you get three hours of sleep which is the toughest thing but you’re talking to coaches and you’re thinking this is the NFL, it’s so crazy... but they’re just regular people, so you feel like you fit in better once you get in the situation.”

And Broyles knew the value of attending the combine despite the fact he couldn’t participate in the majority of the drills, so he focused on making a mark during the interview portion.

“I couldn’t show what I have with my feet, so I had to use my brain a little bit and show my personality,” he said. “So, I enjoyed it.”

'Hammer' aiming to show versatility

Ronnell Lewis didn’t have to participate in Oklahoma’s pro day.

Yet, the former Sooner standout still worked out for the NFL scouts on Wednesday to show them his versatility at 6-foot-2, 255 pounds. Lewis had an excellent NFL combine in late February making it unnecessary to improve his times at pro day.

“I just felt like I could improve a little more on some things,” Lewis said. “I just wanted to bump [my numbers] up a little bit and show them I could still move, be out there at the linebacker and defensive end positions. We had a couple different drills we did here that I didn’t do in [Indianapolis]. I wanted to show I could do a little bit of everything.”

He participated in linebacker coverage drills as well as defensive end drills on Wednesday. He recorded a 4.65 in the 40-yard dash, a shade faster than his 4.68 at the combine.

After playing multiple positions during his time at OU, Lewis could end up as a 3-4 linebacker in the NFL or play defensive end in a 4-3 system. NFL teams have been asking him where he feels more comfortable.

“I tell them I can go either way,” he said. “But I feel like I can stand up. I like seeing the backs and stuff like that but if I play with my hand in the ground it really doesn’t matter.”
Every weekday morning, a member of the SoonerNation gives his take on three things happening in the Sooner sports world.

1. Aaron Colvin hasn't been able to practice this spring, but Mike Stoops can't stop raving about him. Stoops said Colvin is capable of playing safety, cornerback and the nickel. Colvin remains at safety right now, but don't be surprised if Stoops moves him around to get his 11 best defenders on the field at once. Speaking of safeties, there doesn't seem to be much indication that Tony Jefferson will be playing anywhere but back safety. It's possible Jefferson ends up at the nickel. But Stoops seems to be happy with Joe Ibiloye at the nickel right now.

2. After a week, Brannon "Moose" Green seems like a lock to open next season as OU's starting tight end. Safety Tony Jefferson said Green has been the most impressive newcomer so far on a list that includes dazzling wideout Trey Metoyer. Green's forte is blocking, but apparently he's also been flashing skills in the pass game. Green could be an underrated addition to the Sooner offense next season.

3. OU's pro day will be held next week. Best believe Travis Lewis will try to salvage his disastrous combine performance by showing he's faster than the lackluster 4.88 he ran in the 40 Indy. If he can't, Lewis could run the risk of going undrafted, an incredible thought considering as an underclassmen Lewis was projected as a first-round pick on some draft boards.

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Several Sooners made themselves some money during the NFL combine in Indianapolis. Seven former Oklahoma standouts participated in the seven-day combine as teams and draft prospects prepare for the NFL draft which will be held on April 26, 27, 28.

Top Performers

Tight end James Hanna was one of the stars of the combine, ranking as the fastest tight end with his 4.49 time in the 40-yard dash along with top ten rankings in the three-cone drill (6.76 seconds) and bench press (24 reps).

Tom Pennington/Getty Images
James Hanna flashed his excellent speed near the end of the 2010 Bedlam game.

Hanna’s stellar numbers surprised many and will likely force NFL teams to go back and give his game film a closer look with the goal of figuring out if Hanna was under-utilized at OU or if his workout numbers simply don’t translate to the field.

Cornerback Jamell Fleming was another Sooner with a terrific showing during workouts. He could explode up draft boards with his solid 40-yard dash time, strong bench press numbers and excellent broad jump.

Fleming was also solid in on-field drills and could have cemented himself a spot on Day Two (second or third round).

Solid Showings

Defensive end/linebacker Ronnell Lewis had a solid showing, topping all linebackers in the bench press (36 reps) and running a 4.68 time in the 40-yard dash.

Receiver Ryan Broyles, who is still recovering from his torn ACL last November, impressed in his lone physical test, with 21 bench press reps at 225 pounds, which was second among receivers.

Tackle Donald Stephenson was the fastest offensive lineman at the combine, clocking a 4.94 time in the 40-yard dash. He showed excellent athleticism but will be looking to improve his 19 reps in the bench press at OU’s pro day.

Matthew Emmons/US Presswire
Travis Lewis will likely run the 40-yard dash again at OU's Pro Day in March.

Can’t Wait Until Pro Day

Linebacker Travis Lewis was very solid overall but ran a disappointing 4.88 time in the 40-yard dash which will be held against him unless he improves his time at OU’s pro day. Lewis did impress in other areas with a 10-foot, 2-inch broad jump, which ranked sixth amongst linebackers, solid bench numbers and a 36-inch vertical.

Defensive end Frank Alexander didn’t workout at the combine due to a previously undiscovered heart condition, according to his Twitter page.

Complete Summary of Results

Broyles: second among receivers with 21 reps at 225 pounds.

Fleming: 4.53 in the 40; second among cornerbacks with 23 reps at 225 pounds; 34-inch vertical; 10 foot, 5-inch broad jump, ranking fourth among cornerbacks.

Lewis: 4.68 in the 40; 36 reps at 225 pounds, tops among linebackers; 31-inch vertical; 7.09 3-cone drill; 4.4 20-yard shuttle; 9-foot, 3-inch broad jump.

Travis Lewis: 4.88 in the 40; 22 reps at 225 pounds; 36-inch vertical; 10-foot, 2-inch broad jump

Stephenson: 4.94 in the 40, the fastest time among offensive linemen; 19 reps at 225 pounds; 35.5-inch vertical; 9-foot, 4-inch broad jump; 7.52 time in the three cone drill; 4.78 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle.

Hanna: 4.49 in the 40, the fastest time among tight ends; 24 reps at 225 pounds, fourth among tight ends; 36-inch vertical; 6.76 three-cone drill, second among tight ends; 4.11 20-yard shuttle, second among tight ends; 11.43 60-yard shuttle.

Alexander: Attended the combine but unable to participate in drills due to injury.

Loss impact: Linebacker Travis Lewis 

February, 22, 2012
“Loss Impact” analyzes each outgoing starter or rotation player to assess how much his departure will impact Oklahoma next season.

Travis Lewis was never 100 percent last season. A broken big toe suffered of the first day of full pads hampered him until the Insight Bowl. In that game, we saw the real Lewis, who had five tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack.

[+] EnlargeDejuan Miller
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireOklahoma linebacker Travis Lewis started every game he played in for the Sooners.
Despite the toe, Lewis still became the first player ever to lead the Sooners in tackles in four seasons. And for the first time since 2008, OU will enter a season with someone else at weak-side linebacker.

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Spring position preview: Linebacker 

February, 22, 2012
Under Bob Stoops, linebacker has always been a strength on the OU defense. Next season should be no different. In fact, if everything goes according to plan, linebacker might the strength of the entire team.

What Oklahoma has: The Sooners boast a pair of two-year starters, and another linebacker Bob Stoops touted as the MVP of last spring.

[+] EnlargeCorey Nelson
J.P. Wilson/Icon SMIJunior Corey Nelson will take over for Travis Lewis at weakside linebacker for the Sooners.
Tom Wort is back after an injury-plagued sophomore season. Wort dealt with an array of injuries, but still managed to finish fourth on the team with 71 tackles. When healthy, Wort was dynamic, underscored by his performance at Florida State where he finished with eight tackles, 2.5 for loss, a sack and an interception. Problem was, Wort was not as dynamic when he was banged up, which was the case much of last season.

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Seven Sooners invited to NFL combine

February, 7, 2012
Seven Oklahoma players have been invited to participate in the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine from Feb. 22-28 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Here's the list:

Q&A: Former OU LB Rufus Alexander

January, 31, 2012
Landing blue-chip linebacker Rufus Alexander was one of the biggest recruiting victories Brent Venables had at Oklahoma. Alexander, who had offers from Texas and LSU, ended up being an All-American and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year at OU in 2006.

Alexander spoke with SoonerNation and shared his thoughts about Venables leaving for Clemson, and what it means for the Sooners to have Mike Stoops back on the staff:

Jake Trotter: What did you think of Brent Venables’ decision to go to Clemson?

Rufus Alexander: I figured it was a good move for him. I figured it was time, with all that he had gone through, all that he done here at Oklahoma, which was great. I didn’t want him to go. He and Mike Stoops were great together. But he wants to be a head coach, and this was the move he needed to make. I’m sad to see him go. He was my coach. It hurts to see him go.

JT: Have you had a chance to talk with him since he left?

RA: I haven’t had a chance to talk with him. I’m sure the last person he wanted to talk to was me with the decision he had to make. He had lot on his mind. We kept up during the season, though.

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Oklahoma position grades: Linebacker 

January, 30, 2012
Before the Sooners' 31-14 win over Iowa in the Insight Bowl, Jake Trotter and Brandon Chatmon analyzed each Oklahoma position group. Now, the SoonerNation staff is giving each position a grade for its performance in 2011.

Grade: B
Had they been healthy all season, who knows what kind of seasons Tom Wort and Travis Lewis would have had. Problem was, they weren’t. Until the Insight Bowl, Lewis wasn’t the same player after suffering a preseason broken toe. Outside Frank Alexander, Wort was as prolific as any OU defender early in the season. But he too was derailed by an array of injuries. Corey Nelson didn’t live up to his spring billing, but still had a nice sophomore season, while Kellen Jones and Jaydan Bird filled in nicely in the middle when Wort couldn’t go.
- Jake Trotter

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