Lewis looking to contribute

Kaiwan Lewis was a linebacker everyone wanted. Once a four-star prospect ranked as third best linebacker in the nation, Lewis committed to South Carolina before he began his senior year. Though his stock dropped, Lewis is still that same player that had schools all over the country offering him a scholarship.

One of the key prospects for South Carolina on the defensive side of the ball was landing linebacker Kaiwan Lewis of Hammonton, New Jersey. Lewis was receiving offers from all over the southeast, including schools like Arkansas, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, and Florida State. He even got attention from Pac-12 power Stanford.

It became clear early in the process that South Carolina quarterback coach G.A. Mangus, who developed a pipeline in the northeastern state in 2011 to pull in Damiere Byrd, Tanner McEvoy, and Sheldon Royster, had made progress with Lewis and the Gamecocks had jumped to the top of the list. Lewis was on hand for the Showcase in Columbia in July of 2011 and committed to the Gamecocks a week later.

"I built a good relationship with the coaches that were recruiting me," Lewis said in a recent interview with GamecockAnthem. "I felt like South Carolina was the best choice for me academically and my family will get a chance to see me play. Also, South Carolina is on the rise so we have a chance to win."

Lewis, who committed to Carolina as a four-star prospect and third best middle linebacker, signed in February as three-star linebacker that was the 31st-ranked player in the nation at the position. The drop could be partly attributed to the fact that Lewis was an early commitment. Stars and rankings aside, Lewis is a player that makes plays and can deliver devastating blows to opposing players.

Like most freshmen there will be an adjustment period for Lewis and there are things that he must improve on. One of the things he needs to improve on immediately is speed and quickness. The 6'2, 225-pounder ran the 40 in just under 4.7.

"I'm working on everything right now," Lewis said. "For speed I was running track. I was also doing workouts that they sent me. I've been working on everything; I really can't pick one thing out. I'm just trying to get better as a whole."

One of the advantages Lewis will have when he gets on campus is that he will get to learn the position from guys who have plenty of experience. Shaq Wilson will be entering his sixth season at Carolina and Reginald Bowens is entering his fifth season.

"I'm just going to try and learn the playbook and the schemes, and the things that they do and the calls that they make," Lewis said. "Shaq's going into his sixth year so I want to learn from him, as well as Reggie and the other older guys in the linebacker corp."

Lewis even has some of the younger guys like Cedric Cooper when it comes to adjusting to the college game out of high school.

"Even the sophomores, they were in their first year last year so they can give me tips on how things are as a freshman and things I should be doing," Lewis said. "It will be interesting for all of us because it will be the first year for all of us with Coach (Kirk) Botkin."

Botkin was one of two staff changes since Lewis first committed last summer. Assistant Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator Ellis Johnson left to take the Southern Miss job and Lorenzo Ward was promoted. Botkin was brought in to take over for Johnson coaching the linebackers and spurs. Despite the changes Lewis stood firm with his commitment to join the football program.

"He's high-energy; definitely a player's coach and a great guy to be around," Lewis said of Botkin. "I really like his energy so I can only imagine how it will be like on the field."

With the depth at middle linebacker, earning meaningful snaps will be difficult for Lewis barring injuries. As is the case with most incoming defensive players, they can quickly earn playing time on special teams. That's the plan for Lewis and from there he will just take what the coaches give him.

"I'm going to try and get on the kickoff team as fast as I can," Lewis said. "Wherever they need, I just want to play and let the coaches see what I can do. Hopefully I can make some plays there so the coaches can give me a couple of reps at linebacker in the games."

Lewis enters at a time where hopes and expectations are at an all-time high. Two years ago the Gamecocks won the SEC East for the first time since joining the conference and last season won more games than it ever had before.

"I came to South Carolina to try and be the first to win a National Championship and an SEC Championship," Lewis said. "I'm going to work hard."

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