Ruling brings OU defensive line help

Ronnell Lewis had 37 tackles in 2010. J.P. Wilson/Icon SMI

The Hammer will play and Oklahoma fans should be very happy.

For the Sooners, having Ronnell Lewis, nicknamed "The Hammer" thanks to his hard-hitting style, declared eligible to play on Thursday is huge. The 6-foot-2, 244-pound defensive end is one of the most talented defenders in the Big 12 and will have a big impact on OU's defense.

Defensive coordinator Brent Venables said Monday that Lewis is OU's best defensive end, and the junior should provide a much-needed pass-rushing threat along the Sooners' defensive line. Changes in the Sooners defense allowed OU to get Lewis on the field more in the final three games of the 2010 season. He responded with sacks in the Sooners' victories over Nebraska and Connecticut in the final two games.

With Lewis joining senior Frank Alexander in the starting lineup, junior David King moves into a backup role. Lewis, Alexander and King will provide a solid three-man rotation at the defensive end spot, with redshirt freshmen Geneo Grissom and Chuka Ndulue battling to be the No. 4 defensive end.

Having Lewis eligible to play could also help soften the blow of losing linebacker Travis Lewis, who will miss time with a broken toe. If the Sooners defensive end can consistently force double teams and provide pressure on the quarterback, it could free up linebackers Tom Wort and Corey Nelson to make plays in Travis Lewis' absence.