Oklahoma's Ronnell Lewis started just four games last season, but last month, showed up as the media's All-Big 12 first-team pick at defensive end.
He made just 22 tackles and had one sack, but Lewis' opportunity is coming fast.
"We had guys in front of him and it was hard, because that standup position that he plays, Jeremy [Beal] played, and Jeremy played well," said Oklahoma linebacker Travis Lewis. "You can only get him in so much, because you're taking an All-American off the field."
Beal is gone now, though, as is Pryce Macon, who took on a starring role in last season's Big 12 title game, making five tackles for loss, forcing two fumbles and making three sacks. Lewis suffered a scary injury in the Fiesta Bowl against UConn that forced him to be carted off the field, but despite spending the night in a hospital before returning home, he's back for the fall.
Now, he's set to start opposite Frank Alexander as the Sooners' second defensive end, with a chance to start the play from a standing position, a more natural fit for the former linebacker who starred in eight-man football back in his hometown of Dewar, Oklahoma.
"He just has to play and get on the field," Travis Lewis said. "He's a guy that can make plays. He's a physical specimen. He's strong, he's powerful, he's fast. You just need to get him out there in space and make plays."
With the exodus of talent at Oklahoma, now is his chance. But with one talent's exodus comes another's rise, especially at programs like Oklahoma, which annually fields top 10 recruiting classes.
"This year, it's all him," Travis Lewis said. "He can go out there and get it."