But when the Bulldog defense lined-up for the first snaps of spring 2016, there was Lewis not just on the field but out there with the #1 team, too. Just as he expected, it turns out. Lewis certainly believes when Mississippi State’s defense steps onto Scott Field sometime after 11:00am opening day, he’ll be at the weak-side linebacker spot.
From spring until now what is the difference, how have you grown? “I’ve matured a lot in the process. Learning the defense, really learning my roles. And Coach Sirmon is really putting us in position to make plays. So it’s really just something that means I mature a lot faster and know what to do on the field.”
You and Tim Washington are working at that inside linebacker position. What are your expectations having not seen the field yet? “My expectations are high. When I hit the field, I want everyone to know I’m there. So I’m just ready to make a lot of plays this year, especially as a defense. That’s what we’re looking forward too.”
What goes through your mind with having so many good linebackers to put on the field? “Oh, man. We can really do anything we put our minds to. I mean, J.T. is a speedy guy, a speedy guy. Gerri Green is long, he’s rangy, very instinctive. Richie (Brown) out of all of us has the most experience. So I feel he’s comfortable on the field.”
“It’s just up to us to step up and then make plays when our number is called.”
You talked about being more mature, what did you have to work on? “You know, I was playing (in practice) but I wasn’t as fast. I didn’t really know what was going on on the field. They just kind of threw me in there, and I really just didn’t come on to it as quick as I should. I should have been more mature about it, get in my playbooks, and do the extra things to become better. But I’m still young, at the time I didn’t understand.”
Is part of that just the leap from being a great high school player? “Oh yeah. Because in high school you’re just out there running around. But in college you’ve got schemes, things you’ve got to know, offenses are different. So this is all about the mental process and less about the physical. The strength stuff is going to take care of that. It’s more about the mental process on the field.”
When spring started were you surprised to be on the first unit? “To be honest with you, I really expected to start because of my ability. It’s crazy. I just love the game so I expected that right off the bat.”
You had that confidence in yourself all along? “Yes sir.”
What you made you realize you had to study more? “I realized to become a great player you have to take time and put time in your craft. Coach Sirmon really inspired me. He’s been there, he’s done that, he’s been in my shoes before. So he’s really inspired me to do that. And I just have to take it on myself to do that.
Are you still working at will linebacker? “Yes sir, just the will.”
What suits you for that position? “It’s really the weak-side linebacker. So Richie makes all the calls, which I can echo the calls too. It’s really just playing the weak-side linebacker, me being able to roam around the field and run sideline to sideline and make plays.”
After redshirting what’s it going to be like to get on Scott Field the first time? “Man. It’s going to be exciting, man, it’s going to be exciting. I’m just ready to put a show on for everybody.”
How do you prepare for the speed of that first real game? “I think I kind of play fast. That’s back to what I’m saying about the mental process. You just have to know what’s going on so you’re able to play fast and you know what’s coming. And it’s all about putting yourself in position, leveraging the ball and all kind of things of that sort. You just have to know what’s coming.”