Switching Viewpoints

Buried on the running back depth chart at the end of spring, junior Jeff Lewis hopes his switch to safety comes with the advantage of knowing how to confuse his former position.

MADISON - Jeff Lewis has been listed as running back through his entire career; a position that has certainly treated him well.

A standout tailback at Brookfield Central, Lewis was rated as one of the top 50 backs in his recruiting class, earned a scholarship offer from Wisconsin and was going to work his way into a rotation rich in tradition.

But after failing to make an impact the last two seasons and with Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen needing able bodies to compete in the secondary, Lewis was asked to make the transition.

"When I started playing defense, the biggest difference for me is that the ball isn't always in your hands," Lewis said after Wednesday's practice. "It's different because you don't always have to make the play. You just have to be where you're supposed to be and the ball will come to you."

While it has been a change for Lewis, especially when it comes to the fast pace of Andersen's practices, he benefited from being able to adjust over the course of the summer workout schedule. His participation in 7-on-7, learning the new playbook and watching extra film helped with the transition, making fall camp all about becoming consistent in his new role.

"At first, I was kind of lost a lot and asking myself, am I doing the right thing?" Lewis asked. "I was ready to take on this challenge. I look at the switch as a positive, because obviously the coaches felt I had the athletic ability to do it. The coaches are on your side and they want you to be great."

Lewis describes Andersen's practices as crisp, clean and quick. He doesn't mind the new style in comparison to past years, but learning a completely new position and playbook in Andersen's practice environment has definitely added some difficulty to the transition.

"The only thing that is kind of harder for me is the music," said Lewis. "It's only hard for me because I'm still trying to learn. When I was on the offense I knew everything. Even if I couldn't hear the coach talking I would know what to read for each play.

"Now I have to get closer to the coaches to see what they're saying just because the music is blasting in my ears. It's good for us as a team because it makes it similar to a real life game. It's not going to be silent during the games so in the end it's good to have for our practices, but doesn't make learning any easier."

Through the first week of fall camp, Andersen and safety coach Bill Busch are still experimenting with different safety combinations. Through the team's first three practices, Lewis has been pair with sophomore Michael Caputo and has rotated in with the second-team defense.

Although he still has a lot to learn, Lewis is confident that his skills from the past will carry over into his new role with Wisconsin.

"As a defense, we like to disguise a lot of things, and I know when a running back sees any type of movement they will know a blitz is coming," said Lewis. "I just stand completely still. When I was running back and I saw any type of movement I knew a blitz was coming. I try to get on the defenders about that, because even if you make a head nod then that just gives the running back a cue right there. Stay as still as possible and know your plays."


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