Kendrick Lewis was moved from wide receiver, where he showed great potential as a true freshman last year, to free safety in the spring.
Kendrick is a supremely confident, driven athlete, so he downplays the difficulty of the switch, but it hasn't all been rose petals and lilac water.
"Kendrick's personality and the way he plays coincide. He's a very confident kid and he's a kid who challenges himself," said DB Coach Chris Rippon. "He sets goals and does everything in his power to achieve them.
"He has the makeup of being a good safety because he has a short memory and he never thinks anyone he's assigned to is better than him. He takes full responsibility if he is beaten. That bodes well for his future."
Rippon said Lewis believes he's going to be a great player - in time.
"He knows that it's going to take work, and he works hard at it, but there's no doubt in his mind he's going to be a great player," Rip continued. "He feels he's going to play on Sundays and he trusts me to help get him there. He is sincerely open to coaching."
While Rippon feels strongly about his protege, he knows Lewis' development to greatness is a long, winding road.
"He needs another year in the weight room. That will benefit him immensely. Kendrick may as well be a linebacker in what he has to do tackling, but he has to be fast enough to cover wideouts and protect against the deep ball," Chris stated. "The extra strength and the quickness and agility he gets in the weight room will help him cope a lot better in the future.
"He's got 220-pound backs with a 10-yard head start and 4.3 receivers coming right at him right now and it's been an adjustment. He sees weight training will help him a lot. And the experience he is getting this year will definitely help him next year."
Lewis exudes confidence, in a quiet way.
"I have adjusted OK. All I needed was to get a few games behind me and I'd be alright. I'm fine now," Kendrick said. "It's a lot more physical than receiver, but I like that.
"Coach Rip has really helped me a lot, as well as Jamarca Sanford. They know everything there is to know and they dug in with me on my adjustment to free safety. They made the transition a lot easier."
Early in the year, Lewis had trouble with his tackling, so much so that freshman Johnny Brown passed him on the depth chart for a week or two.
"Johnny is doing a great job, but him passing me didn't affect me. I just kept on competing and got better until I got the job back," he explained. "It was a matter of tackling for me."
Lewis said it was bad technique that made the tackling poor for him and the defense as a whole.
"We weren't getting our heads across the ballcarrier and weren't wrapping up and moving our feet through the RBs," he noted. "Once I started doing that, I got better - the whole defense started tackling better.
"There are a lot of things I still have to learn, but I am a lot more comfortable now than I was during August."
Kendrick is not in awe of his position as the number one free safety who also wears the #1 jersey.
"I came here to play, not sit. I will do whatever I have to in order to get on the field," he closed.
Rippon believes that as well.
"As I said, he believes in himself. He doesn't have to be coaxed to do extra work or to have confidence. It's all built in with him and that's the sign of a kid who is going to be real good," Rippon ended.
Kendrick Lewis -
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