These Bulldogs are enjoying themselves. Especially sophomore Lewis. He has put in his share of standout sessions whether in basic drills, pass-and-coverage competition, and best of all in full-team periods. Not that any official numbers are being kept of course, but unofficially Lewis would be at the top of this list.
"It's alright, I feel like I'm getting better," he said following a Friday where he was way, way better than alright. Lewis dominated the pass-catching, most of all in red zone and goal line situations where observers got tired of counting his touchdown plays.
This is a most encouraging sign for Mississippi State's future passing plans since all three of the wideouts who led in 2012 catches are graduating. Make that four if tight end Marcus Green is included. This quartet accounted for 152 of the 237 caught balls, and 22 of the 26 touchdown pass plays. Their departure following the Gator Bowl leaves the lineup almost entirely open for new starters.
And Lewis intends to make his place in the '13 picture, as this bowl camp production proves. "I'm steadily progressing," he said. In the regular season slot-man Lewis, playing in rotation with leading receiver Chad Bumphis (which obviously limited his turns) had ten catches for 108 yards…and no scores. No wonder the third-year Dog is having such a fine time in these bowl practices which have been specifically scripted for underclassmen, to position themselves for spring training status.
"I mean it all feels good, a touchdown or whatever getting positive yards. Just doing your job and knowing you did it good makes you feel good on the inside."
Lewis and his fellow rotation receivers—Robert Johnson, Malcolm Johnson, and Joe Morrow—are in an interesting December situation. They've all played real games, as well as been through at least two or even three bowl camps now. So they should be performing as seasoned hands this week, certainly compared to the true freshmen.
"I'm still known as a young guy, I've got two more years left," reminded Lewis. "But I've been here more than some of the seniors that here!" Which means a lot more is being demanded from him than, say, the newest kids, redshirted rookies Brandon Holloway and Fred Brown. The irony is, of course, Lewis is also expected to help develop the kids who soon will want his place in the pass-pecking order. Holloway being the obvious case as he too is being groomed for the slot (H) receiver spot.
Lewis takes it in fine stride. "I'm just playing my role and doing whatever Coach Mullen wants me to do, helping Holloway out," he said. With the finer points that is; young Holloway already brings physical gifts to the game that have garnered bowl practice attention. His speed, primarily.
"He's fast," said Lewis, no slouch himself in a sprint. "He's from Florida and that's where those fast kind of guys are made at! But he's quick, too. So I think we're going to be a good duo."
Speaking of promising pairs, something else that has caught comments during practices this week was how Lewis and second-fall freshman quarterback Dak Prescott appear to play well together. Very well, if Prescott passes caught in end zones are a fair measuring stick. Lewis doesn't find this a surprise at all.
"We've been practicing for a while together now so we have a pretty good relationship."
As for Lewis' other practice duties, he's taken his turns fielding punts…along with Holloway ironically enough. He hasn't been called on much for kickoff returns so far, nor has there been need to up to now. When the Bulldogs begin specific preparations for Northwestern, it will be Lewis lined up deep alongside LaDarius Perkins. His end-to-end return in the Egg Bowl was the long-sought breakout for Lewis as well as his third college touchdown, after he got six points on both a reception and a rush in 2011.
What Lewis, and Mississippi State, hope is those scattered scoring plays of the first two varsity seasons are signs of more to come in 2013. That is how Lewis thinks these days, too.
"I think it's going to be a big year for me. I just hope to do things right and let everything else play its way out. But I think it's going to be a good year."
And who knows? Maybe next season Lewis will find time to interview Milton about a touchdown or two of his own.