It might be tough convincing defenses that Lewis brings any weak points to the playing field. Not after snagging 64 passes as a junior with five of them for touchdowns. Or coming within a couple more grabs of the first 1,000-yard receiving season in Mississippi State history; he settled for 923.
What Lewis is not settling for now is being merely outstanding. He’s looking for greatness as a senior, and has more than a few folk already measuring Lewis for that exact status. Should he play up to the best expectations he can achieve first-team All-SEC status, something not done by a Bulldog in two decades.
Then again, to rise to the top in this league means doing even bigger things…which to Lewis translates as addressing “the small things.” That’s maturity. Many a leading target at this level would be looking to address something glaring…if they even admitted a weakness. Not Lewis. He isn’t too proud to either keep learning finer points or even address what seems the simplest sort of stuff.
”Like hand-eye coordination,” he suggested. Whoa there, a guy who by the end of 2013 was sucking in anything within his grasp as if his gloves and ball were magnetized is fretting this bare basic of the craft? Exactly, Lewis said.
”Because the last two practices I didn’t have as great performance as I thought I should have,” he explains. “So I’ve been trying to work on hand-eye coordination and try to catch everything that comes my way. Fast or slow balls, because they come different ways.”
Speaking of different… Lewis headlines an interesting group of wide receivers for this season. A talented group too as all agree, including the quarterbacks who are tossing to them this camp. Picking the best target isn’t always easy for them in practices either; there are the straight-line speed guys, the guys with moves, tall guys, stout guys, and those who combine several such aspects. Everyone brings something to this playbook for potential use.
Well and good, says Lewis, as long as everyone uses their gifts right now in practicing. No waiting for opening day, not if they want to play early and often.
Fortunately, “It’s been going pretty good. It’s a steady grind, you know, just trying to get better at the small things. For the most part we’ve been getting better,” Lewis reports. That said, “We’re alright but we have room for improvement. So after the scrimmage we’re going to evaluate that and take it from there, just try to get better every day.”
Said scrimmage was held Saturday evening and while the game-type session was closed to observation informal reports offer further encouragement about this 2014 air attack. For his part Lewis could have approached scrimmaging as, well, sorta routine. He’s done that drill for years and shouldn’t have anything left to prove to teammates, right?
Not so. “A scrimmage just really lets us know where we’re at right now. So go out there and perform well for the offense, that will be a big deal coming into the season.”
Given his upperclassman status Lewis is obviously lending a hand to the younger wide receivers, especially at his slot position where he’s backed by both a redshirt freshman in Gabe Myles and a true rookie in Jamoral Graham. These are gifted kids who fit fine into the role Lewis defines so well; a super all-around athlete who knows how to operate in traffic, find cracks in coverage, and do something extra with the ball following grabs.
It doesn’t hurt either that Myles follows Lewis’ example of a winning high school quarterback who will spend a college career catching passes rather than throwing them…though of course Lewis showed last season he hasn’t lost that touch. He was 3-of-3 on 2013 passes, all for touchdowns with a quarterback rating just about off any charts.
Lewis’ potential to pass is another aspect defenses must allow for. And if needed, he could offer some tossing tips to the new Bulldog quarterbacks. Not that Nick Fitzgerald and Elijah Staley need too much extra assistance so far. “They’re really talented. They’ve got a positive mindset, everything they’re doing is on the steady grind. They push each other.”
For his part Lewis continues pushing to stay part of special teams plans. He handled almost all punt returning last year and averaged 23.5 yards on kickoffs. In spring practice Lewis was typically the first fellow fielding punts again, but at the same time he saw his coaches working others in this role.
For that he sorta blames himself, or rather critiques his stats. “I didn’t do too well on punt returns, so I’ve been focusing on that this summer.” As have several more Bulldogs, to be clear, and Lewis knows who his competition is.
”We’ve got Brandon Holloway, we’ve got Will Redmond, we’ve got Justin Cox, we’ve got Cedric Jiles. We’ve got a lot of talented guys, a lot of speed. So whichever guy Coach puts on the field at the time I’m pretty sure they’re going to make it happen.” It’s just that, well, Lewis wants to be the guy Coach Greg Knox puts on-field. Never mind he already has a leading role with the offense.
“I want to do everything! Because this is my last year and I’m trying to go all-out.”