Spring Q&A: Jeff Lewis

Entering his fourth year in the program and having been stuck down on the depth chart, junior tailback Jeff Lewis is approaching each day as an opportunity to get better and a chance to get on the field this season for Wisconsin.

Talk about your career here at Wisconsin so far. You probably have not been on the field as much as you would have liked, but where have you made progress and where are you trying to accomplish more?

Jeff Lewis: I've been improving each and every year. I can't complain because I have been on three Big Ten championship teams now and surrounded by great players in Montee Ball, James White and now Melvin Gordon. Every day we try to come out here and compete. As long as I get better each and every day, that's all I can ask for.

I asked Melvin and James this question so I am going to ask you: do you miss Montee?

Lewis: (laughing) Yeah, yeah, sometimes with the laughs but as far as practice, you don't really notice. As soon as you put the helmets on, it's just another player you are competing against.

You have competing ever since you got here but you always seem to be beaten by others. Obviously James played your freshman year when you redshirted, Montee out competed everybody and Melvin beat you out last year. How do you look at that when other guys are beating you out for reps?

Lewis: It is motivation. When we are off the field, we're friends and we're close. When we get on the field, it makes us better. When my time does come, I will be ready, and there's no doubt in my mind that I haven't done everything to get myself ready. I'll be just fine.

You've been waiting for a long time for an opportunity and you look at last year when three running backs got a lot of carries in the offense, how has running back Thomas Hammock told you or approached you this spring to get you to be one of those three this year?

Lewis: Just saying that I have to keep getting better, pretty much be me and go out there and play physical. I need to go out there, prove myself and if I do what I am suppose to do this spring I'll be just fine. Hopefully I'll be able to get into the mix with the rotation they had last year.

How are you better than the player you were at the end of the season last year?

Lewis: Mentally and seeing how you approach every game, because the Big Ten is second to none with the physicality each and every week in. It takes a toll on your body and Montee was a fantastic running back here to be able to go through that every week. Being his roommate, you learn to go through the grind every week because you might not feel 100 percent every game. You just have to learn mentality to overcome and when you go out there, just play.

When you get game reps, even if it's a blowout in the fourth quarter, do you have to approach is like its 0-0 and how have you used those opportunities to fuel your fire?

Lewis: When you go out there, teams might think I am the weak link or garbage, but I just think it is 0-0 because I have something to bring to the table, too. Once I am fresh and good to go, the score doesn't matter. I am going to take my reps for what they are and try to take advantage of them. How much has the offense changed from last year with a lot of new offensive coaches?

Lewis: For the most part it is still a pro offense, but I think we're going to be doing a lot more passing this year to open up the defense. Everybody won't be playing in the box on us, get our receivers involved a little bit more, but for the most part things should be pretty similar. We haven't installed too much yet. Everything is pretty basic, but we'll see.

How big of a benefit is it to have the same position coach back?

Lewis: It's tremendous. Every year the offense has changed. With that being said, we just have to learn every year to get better and take it for what it is. We're very lucky to have Coach Hammock. I think he's the best running back coach in college football. Each time we're coming out here, we're getting better.

With so much constant change, has it been hard for you when you are trying to break through into the lineup when the offense hasn't stayed the same?

Lewis: That's true, but that's how life is. Everything is not always going to be a blank slate and clean, so I just take it for what it is and take advantage of it.

How have you seen growth in yourself through six spring practices? How have you put yourself in position to take big steps for when you come back from break?

Lewis: For the most part, I think it's just chemistry. With this new playbook, we're starting to play together, we're more relaxed (and) plays are starting to flow better than they were before. Everything is timing. I fell like timing is really getting better for us and when we come back from spring break we'll really be going.

Where have you done good things in six practices and where are the things you need to do better in the next nine practices?

Lewis: For the most part, I haven't had any mental mistakes, but there have been a few bad plays. Coach Hammock tells me if I take those few bad plays away I have a good practice. The goal is to take those bad plays away and have a straight, positive practice.

James White said he learned from Montee Ball on how to be a great practice player, saying he was a better player in practice than he was in games. What did you take away from Montee practicing and how has he rubbed off in you that way?

Lewis: Just his consistency. Anybody can rush for 300 yards the first game of the season but if you can rush for a lot of yards each and every week like Montee did, that's what separates you from a good player and a great player. Just consistency and learning how to work when your body isn't feeling right, even when you have school, tests and you're in week six. Everything in college football is about consistency.

In four years here you have three Big Ten championship rings and have gone to three Rose Bowls. What is that like for an in-state kid to experience that, especially last year when you have a part in it?

Lewis: It's amazing. Words really cannot explain it because when you are growing up, playing in the Rose Bowl is like "wow." It's tremendous. Now it's like a staple for us and the program. That's the only bowl game we know. It's awesome motivation for us. The bullseye is on our back coming into next season, so it just motivates us to get better each and every year because everyone wants to beat Wisconsin right now in the Big Ten.

It probably motivates you to have a bigger role in the success next season, too, so people remember that you were a big contributor on the team?

Lewis: Exactly, which is why I am doing whatever I can to get on that field. Hopefully you'll be seeing me in the fall.


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