Big 12 coaches named Lewis their Defensive Freshman of the Year and second-team all-conference in 2008 because those record-breaking 144 stops included 11.5 for loss and 3.5 sacks, and he also showed quickly his ability in coverage with four interceptions and three pass break-ups. He earned first-team All-Big 12 accolades with excellent production in 2009 (109 tackles, 8.5 TFL, one sack, one INT, two PBU) and second-team honors in 2010 (109 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, three INT, five PBU).
Lewis is looking to lead the Sooners in tackles for the fourth straight season at his weak-side linebacker position, quite a feat given the history of the program. He could have entered the draft early in 2011 because of he has all of the physical traits scouts like at the second level, possesses excellent instincts, and could play any second-level position his new team requires. But he returned to enjoy his college experience a bit longer, and put himself in the pantheon of college football players by repeating Bosworth's accomplishment of winning a national title.
Read & React: Combines very good instincts with above-average reaction skills. Almost always finds the ball in traffic. Greet feel in coverage, sees quarterback and receiver, jumps routes to prevent completion, or at least stop yards after the catch. One-man wrecking crew against screens because he sniffs them out and has the quicks to grab the receiver.
Run Defense: Tougher between the tackles than many expect. Gap-shooter that grabs backs before they get through the line, also willing to throw his body into the hole to create piles and stands up to blocks to stay in the play. Feels pulling lineman coming, capable of punching to stay clean or take the outside shoulder to keep runners from bouncing to the sideline. Lacks strength to blow up fullbacks and bulk/length to prevent getting engulfed by better lineman at the second level.
Pass Defense: Fluid and quick drop into zone, covers enough ground to be Tampa-Two mike and knows where the markers are. Often arrives at the receiver at the same time as the ball, gives up few yards after the catch. Possesses straight-line speed stay with or chase down receivers in man. Creates turnovers with quick reaction time to bring in tipped balls, closes on balls over the middle or baits quarterbacks intro throwing his directions if they do not seeing his deep drop. Loses size battle to many tight ends, easily pushed away on out routes. Caught looking into backfield occasionally instead of getting to receiver in the flat. Tries to cradle throws at times instead of snatching them, resulting in dropped interceptions.
Tackling: As secure and reliable a tackler as you'll see in college football. Not necessarily explosive, but more physical than a chase-and-drag linebacker. Breaks down well in space, corrals elusive ballcarriers on the edge or inside by wrapping torso and holding on. Gets leverage inside to stop piles from moving forward. Leaves his feet at times, NFL backs will take advantage.
Pass Rush/Blitz: Works more in space than attacking the backfield, but flashes closing speed and agility to reach passers from the blind side or up the middle before they can escape. Knocks down some quarterbacks with just a glancing blow. Takes advantage of large holes to get to the quarterback, but must work on using violent hands to rip off lineman and defeat cut blocks from running backs. Also needs to build a variety of pass rush moves.
Intangibles: Team captain who leads the team on and off the field with words and by example. Four-year starter for one of the top programs in the country. No known character or off-field issues."
Generates a natural burst and exhibits very good closing speed off his frame. Plays with proper leverage consistently, which allows him to routinely work his way free from blocks. Routinely is able to gain a step, absorb contact and fend off blocks through the play. Has the lower body strength and plays with the necessary leverage to even take on linemen in the hole.
Extends his arms well, locates the football and for his size does an impressive job stacking and shedding at the point. Is only an average tackler, tends to go high into ball carriers and will slip off his fair share of backs. Doesn’t breakdown as consistently as his athletic skill set would lead you to believe in space.
However, has the range to routinely string out plays and close quickly in pursuit. Is a natural athlete in space vs. the pass game. Possesses good coordination in his drop, keeps his feet under him and does a great job dropping his pad level and accelerating out of his breaks. Doesn’t waste much motion when asked to click and close, stays compact with his footwork and generates good closing speed off his frame.
Keeps his head on a swivel in zone coverage, feels routes around him and exhibits the fluidity to cleanly open up his hips and run. Exhibits good ball skills when he can make a play on the throw and has a knack for being around the football and coming down with key turnovers.
Impression: He’s a bit undersized and doesn’t tackle as well as you would like inside the box. However, he’s a good run and hit backer who plays the run well and will be able to make plays vs. the pass game in the NFL. Looks like a day one starter to me as a 43 backer, either on the weak side or possibly in the middle."
Has the play speed, movement skills (converted running back), balance and instincts to excel as a run-and-hit “Will” linebacker in a fast-flowing 4-3 scheme.
Has moderate hip tightness, gets outmuscled inside and needs to improve his hand use (does not use them violently to shed/play off blocks) but is a good tackler, shoots gaps and attacks downhill and shows range and short-area burst to close.
Needs to get stronger but is a good locker-room addition and possesses starter-caliber ability."
Lewis is a rangy linebacker and the leader of Oklahoma's defense. He may not have the best pass rush ability, but Lewis shows enough athleticism and agility to get better in that area. Covering the run, Lewis is NFL ready.
Bold Statement: Will be a starter at weak-side linebacker as a rookie.
Games Viewed: Connecticut ('10), Nebraska ('10), Baylor ('10), Missouri ('10), Texas ('10), Florida State ('10), Stanford ('09), Nebraska ('09), Texas ('09).
• Lewis is one of the most-experienced linebackers in the nation and his play reflects it. Lewis plays with good instincts and is a technically sound tackler.
• Is at his best when he's playing on the weak side in 4-3 alignments. That allows Lewis is ranginess and natural athleticism.
• Has excellent pursuit ability and can move around with ease.
• One of the most consistent players in the nation.
• Plays with a lot of fire, which sometimes gets him in trouble because he'll over-pursue.
• Not the biggest or strongest linebacker, which will limit him some taking on blocks and shedding.
• Is a work in progress when asked to drop back in zone situations. Is better suited to run with receivers in man."
Not all that big or physical, but is a weight-room warrior with good strength and really explodes into tackles; also is a tremendous athlete with sub-4.4 speed, although tends to be somewhat stiff in the hips and doesn’t change direction all that quickly; has good instincts and exceptional acceleration and range;
Can also run with most backs and TEs and as a former star high school RB has good ball skills for a LB; indeed, already shares OU career record for picks for a LB with 8; can get into the backfield, but is not a natural blitzer; also struggles to get off blocks when engaged at times; will miss the first month of the season with a broken foot."
Negatives: Can be a little overaggressive when taking on blocks, gets locked up by blockers and is often unable to disengage... Needs to add some bulk to his frame, looks to be limited to playing on the weak side at this point... Is not a big hitter, will wrap up and bring ball carriers down, but does not possess explosiveness to drive many back at contact... Not much of a pass rusher, although probably won't be expected to blitz much on passing downs in the NFL... Can get bottled up at the line of scrimmage fairly easily, too small to demand multiple blockers' attention."
The San Antonio native is one of the most explosive and fluid linebackers in the nation. The former high school running back has elite agility, with the short-area quickness and ability to change directions with ease. He can make blockers miss the way an All-American tailback makes would-be tacklers look foolish. His speed and recognition skills combine to make him a playmaker; when he gets to the ball carrier, it’s a done deal. In pass coverage the Boomer Sooner has the fleetness of foot to stay with running backs and the ball skills to make the opposing quarterback pay for mistakes.
Lewis is not a traditional edge pass rusher and will never be mistaken for a three-four outside linebacker, but he is capable of coming on a blitz and sifting through the trash to get to the quarterback. The speedy linebacker is a bit light in the pants at 6’2” and 232 pounds, but he is the strongest linebacker Oklahoma has, evidenced by his ability to throw up 380 pounds when under the bar. Lewis’ star lost some of its shine last year but with a bounce back junior season he could jump right back into first-round consideration."