By John Shinn
Oklahoma’s Big 12 and national championship hopes received a boost and a blow on Thursday. Quarterback Landry Jones announced he will return for his senior season, but defensive end Ronnell Lewis has decided to leave.
Also Thursday, receivers coach Jay Norvell announced he was remaining with the Sooners.
“I want to accomplish the goals that I set before I got here, and there is still a lot more to do,” Jones said in a statement released by OU. “I want to make sure I’ve exhausted every effort in that area. And I want to be a senior. I enjoy being at OU and with my teammates and look forward to graduating with the guys that were in my class when I got here.”
Jones is expected to graduate in May. He needs 11 more credit hours to complete his degree in multidisciplinary studies.
The Sooners’ all-time leading passer with 12,389 yards and 93 touchdown passes said he likes the team the Sooners will bring back next season and believes it is capable of making a national championship run.
“We hope to have another opportunity to make a title run,” Jones said. “Most of the offensive line returns and we have several receivers and backs return, too. We’ve also got a lot of guys back on defense, so we’re confident that we can be a strong team.”
OU coach Bob Stoops was adamant throughout December that he wouldn’t try to sway Jones’ decision. He only wanted to make sure the quarterback had accurate information to use in the process. Stoops was pleased with Jones’ decision.
“We know the positive influence Landry has on and off the field with our team,” Stoops said. “We’re excited that he’s coming back to build on what has already been an outstanding career. We expect another great year from him, and like the fact that he’s determined to be even better.”
Jones threw for 4,463 yards and 29 touchdowns this past season while OU went 10-3 and finished the year with a 31-14 victory over Iowa in the Insight Bowl.
Jones threw for 161 yards — the lowest passing total in any of his 37 career starts — in the game. The performance mirrored a season-ending slump for Jones. He only threw two touchdown passes against six interceptions in OU’s final four games. The slump coincided with the season-ending knee injury suffered by All-American wide receiver Ryan Broyles.
Jones said repeatedly that he expected to make his decision very near the Jan. 15 deadline for underclassmen to declare for the 2012 NFL draft. His decision, however, was made eight days prior.
While Jones will return, most believed Oklahoma defensive end Ronnell Lewis played his final collegiate game Nov. 21 against Baylor — and that turned out to be true. Lewis announced on Thursday he will forgo his senior season and enter the 2012 draft.
“After meeting with my family and coaches and gathering input from various resources, including the NFL, I’ve carefully weighed my options and have decided to forgo my senior year at OU and enter the 2012 NFL Draft,” Lewis said in a statement released by OU.
“My time at OU has produced many fond memories and I hope to keep close ties with my friends, teammates, coaches, football staff and everyone at OU who has helped me along the way. I’d like to personally thank the University of Oklahoma and Coach Stoops for giving me the opportunity to be a Sooner and play on Saturdays in front of the best fans in the country. Without the support of my coaches, my family and so many others, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Lewis missed OU’s final three games after suffering a knee injury in the Baylor game. Stoops said Lewis was medically cleared to play against Oklahoma State on Dec. 3, but missed the game due to an academic suspension. Lewis was academically ineligible for the Insight Bowl and didn’t make the trip to Arizona.
His decision to forgo his senior season wasn’t a surprise due to the academic issues. Stoops said last week that he encouraged Lewis to enter the draft.
“Ronnell leaves with our best wishes,” the Sooner coach said. “He managed several challenges while playing here, but always worked hard and gave us his very best effort. He has the skill to be a successful NFL player and we feel he’ll do well there. As with any of our players who reach for the top level, he won’t have any bigger fans than those of us at OU.”
Lewis was considered a possible first-round pick before the knee injury. It didn’t require surgery and he should be healthy when workouts for NFL scouts begin in February.
Meanwhile, Norvell interviewed for Wisconsin’s vacant offensive coordinator job on Wednesday. But according to several media reports on Thursday, Norvell has decided to remain at OU.
Both Rivals.com and ESPN.com reported that Norvell has decided to remain at OU.
Norvell just finished his fourth season at OU and currently holds the title of co-offensive coordinator. Offensive coordinator Josh Heupel had play-calling duties this past season.
Keeping Norvell on the staff is very important with the Sooners trying to rebuild their recruiting class for next season. OU already has many recruiting experts consider the best receiver group in the country coming with five-star recruit Trey Metoyer, who signed with OU last February, but failed to qualify academically, set to come in from Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia. OU also has verbal commitments from four-star receivers Durron Neal (St. Louis DeSmet), Sterling Shepard (Heritage Hall) and Derrick Woods (Inglewood, Calif.)