Dynamic Trio Looking to Carry Offensive Torch

Mike Jones is trading in his bat, Jamaal Lewis won't be taking on defensive ends as often as before, and Rudy Burgess won't be asked to carry the ball 25 times a game. The three represent a group Coach Koetter called "a very talented but unproven group of receivers" for the 2006 version of the fun-n-sun offense.

After losing Derek Hagan, Matt Miller, and Moey Mutz from a year ago, it was up to Koetter to find an athletic group to create match up problems for defenses and electrical problems for scoreboards. With more depth at tailback than ever before, Burgess was converted back to his original position at wide receiver, Jones emerged as a potential number one guy, and Lewis slimmed down to make up a dynamic group for either Sam Keller or Rudy Carpenter to salivate over.

"The transition's going well so far", Burgess said with his laid back demeanor hidden beneath an impressive afro. "I'm really looking forward to being everywhere on the field and really contributing to the team."

Burgess was forced into action at tailback the past two years but many fans are clamoring for him to be used as the desert version of Reggie Bush, but Burgess doesn't quite believe the comparisons. "I've seen some of his stuff on film but I don't like to compare myself to anybody, especially him."

While he may be lining up in a different position, it's not something new for him to be catching balls instead of being hand fed them. Burgess was second on the team last year in receptions behind only Hagan to complement his 145 carries from the backfield. "I never thought when I got here t I'd ever be playing running back, so it's good to go back (to wide receiver)."

As for Jones, the Houston product came to spring practice in the midst of his baseball season, and left the diamond having both coaches and teammates impressed. So much so, that Koetter has him listed as one of the two starters ahead of players with more experience. If he can trade in catching fly balls for deep balls, he should be good to go come this season.

"I sometimes get caught up in baseball, but now I'm trying to fully get back into football mode," Jones said. "Last year, those three seniors helped a lot. Derek Hagan's shoes are pretty big to fill but I'm up for it."

The former high school quarterback doesn't mind being on the opposite end of a touchdown hook-up, and his transition to wide receiver has been made easier given his background under center. "I can catch onto the offense faster than most people because of it (being a former QB)" he said when asked about his progress. "I miss QB all the time, just being in control and having the ball in your hands every play. I just want to play football though."

While Jones looks forward to the chance to play football this fall, baseball coach Pat Murphy may be able to offer up enough to entice the center fielder to concentrate full time on the diamond—potential for a contract sooner.

"I could have a big decision to make after next baseball season, because there's the possibility I could get drafted. I don't plan on leaving early but financially it would be a dream to get drafted and play pro baseball. I love both sports and want to continue playing them and get that degree."

One familiar face both quarterbacks will be pleased to see back is Jamaal Lewis. J-Lew had played the tight end/H-back role his first three seasons on campus, but was asked to switch to receiver during the off-season. While he may lack prototypical speed for the position, his size will help to create interesting match-ups.

"I feel it's a good move," Lewis said while pondering his adjustment to the new position. "I'm bigger so I can get the cornerbacks off of me. The only downfall is I might not be fast enough to get by them. It doesn't matter to me what position I'm playing as long as we're winning games and I'm on the field."

During the first part of last year, he established himself as a reliable target making some catches that would even make John Jefferson stand up and applaud. Getting the chance to focus more on his pass catching should give the fifth-year senior an opportunity to snag more than the 23 balls he caught last year.

"(Wide Receivers) Coach Jackson has made the transition easy but reading the defenses is the hardest part," Lewis said when asked about his move. "The coaches have helped by playing seven-on-seven. They gave me films to watch and of course the playbook helps too. I've also been working with Rudy (Burgess)."

Put on the Mackey award watch list for the nation's best tight end, Lewis says he's open to going full-time back to the position if something (gasp) were to happen to All-American Zach Miller. "I still know all the plays for tight end, and if they needed me I could do it. I guarantee you if you called out a play right now I would know the route."

Lewis should also be able to help in the red zone. While his speed may lack for that of an ideal receiver, his height and ability to get up for balls make him a player to watch out for in the category that matters most: scoring. "I'm good at jump balls, and I'm really gonna surprise some people in the red zone."

Between the trio of Jones, Burgess, and Lewis, they hauled in 86 passes a year ago to go along with 10 touchdown grabs. While most schools would consider it a blessing to have such talent back, the group seems to be the biggest question mark on an offense that returns 13 players who started a game last year.

"It's really an embarrassment of riches on the offense", Koetter said about his returning crew. If the Devils are lucky enough to strike it even richer with the trio that's traded in everything for team success, the teams biggest question mark may just turn into an exclamation point.

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