August 26, 2008

Lemon making progress on defense

He's seen action in a dozen games so far in his career at Oklahoma State, so is this the year Orie Lemon really gets to squeezing the competition?

To date, his greatest moment on the Cowboys came against Florida Atlantic in 2006, when he intercepted a pass and returned it 73 yards for a touchdown. That was good for the 13th-longest return in school history and in the past six seasons.

And by the end of this season, he's hoping you forget all about that.

Not really, but there is one thing for certain about Lemon coming into 2008: he wants to play a big part in helping revamp the much-maligned OSU defense.

"We're going to stop everybody this year for Oklahoma State, because we know what we have to do," Lemon said. "We've been working hard inside the film room and out there on the field, so we are able to stop everyone."

After last season's unit turned in an overall team defense of 101st, they had nowhere to go but up. While the defense has been a problem at OSU for awhile now, part of last year's performance was understandable, given that Tim Beckman was overhauling things and installing his system.

But that was a year ago. Lemon insists that things are different now.

"Last year it was taking us a very long time to learn his defense that he brought over," Lemon said. "Now that we've had this second year under it, we kind of know what's going on."

That's becoming quite apparent. Especially in the case of Lemon. Last week, OSI publisher Jeff Johnson had this to say about Lemon's progression:

"It's my opinion that you'll see OSU defenders simply reacting and playing football this year, where last year they hesitated. Orie Lemon is a perfect example here, though his change has as much to do with getting comfortable playing defense after a lifetime on O as it does knowing the scheme. He knows his assignment at all times now, and that allows him to just play football and use his natural abilities. A split-second hesitation can be the difference in a stop for a minimal gain and one for six or seven yards (or worse)."

It remains to be seen what kind of improvement will be seen on that side of the ball, but Lemon's confidence says boatloads. So what has Lemon done to complete the change from high school quarterback to college linebacker?

"First of all, I prayed to make myself a better football player," he said. "I've worked harder inside the weight room offseason and just got myself going."

Don't think for a minute the coaches have overlooked his hard work, either. Defensive coordinator Tim Beckman is very impressed with the junior out of Houston.

"To be an outside linebacker and move to inside linebacker, to be dedicated, he's really made his game so much more," Beckman said. "He's made football important. And when you play the game and play in the Big 12, the game's got to be very important to you. And Orie has decided that's what he wants to do. He's really changed his body and changed his mental process of playing this game, so we look forward to seeing what he can do Saturday afternoon."

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