Lewis learning the ropes

Young quarterback facing common struggles, adapting well

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They may not have left their respective high schools a semester early, but Sean Lewis' fellow young Badger signal callers know exactly what he is going through.


"It's all there. It's expected to get the flusters out," redshirt freshman Tyler Donovan said. "That's expected, in terms of maybe some fumbled snaps here and there, which I struggled with early last year."


"We do a lot of footwork stuff," redshirt sophomore John Stocco said. "I think anytime a quarterback first gets here you've got to kind of get used to that. He's a little bit slow on that, just like I was my freshman year."


Stocco, 20, and Donovan, 19, are ancient compared to Lewis, the 6-foot-7 recruit who left H.L. Richards High School a semester early to join the Badgers for spring practice. Lewis turns 18 April 11, one day after Wisconsin's annual spring game.


As advertised, Lewis has flashed a big arm and surprising mobility for a player of his physical stature. But as Stocco and Donovan alluded to, he has also suffered growing pains.


"The game's a lot faster than high school ball," Lewis said simply. "I've got to get better acquainted with the system, what to do on each play, who to read, recognizing coverages."


"Sean, it has just been nine practices so he's a work in progress. Daily, you see little steps," quarterbacks coach Jeff Horton said. "That's a big learning curve when you first come to college, not just football-wise but more importantly with academically, socially, when here's a guy that should be trying to decide who he is going to ask out to the prom."


In addition to fumbled snaps and slow footwork drills, there have been plenty of errant throws and bouts of inconsistent play. Lewis also needs a quicker release and a more compact delivery. But teammates and coaches laud his maturity, skill and progress.


"Sean's done a great job with everything," Donovan said. "He prepares a lot every practice. It takes a lot of courage coming into a program like this at a young age like him and stepping up to the plate."


"Just to verbalize in the huddle, then to go out and execute it, understand the snap count, get 11 guys moving at the same time, get the ball and then worry about your mechanics: It's overwhelming right now," head coach Barry Alvarez said. "I've seen him improve. I think you'll see a different guy once he shows up during two-a-days and digests all of this. It is way too early to decide redshirting but I would say he's probably a very good candidate."


The way Lewis carries himself, it does not seem like he is 17 years old.


"He was a 4.0 student coming out of high school," Horton said. "He's got the smarts and the maturity level. Those things have weighed in his favor."


After moving to Madison in January, Lewis quickly adapted to his new environment and to the heavier workload he faced between college courses and the nearly year-round nature of football workouts.


"It's pretty much life right now, it's football and school," Lewis said.


"You've got to really budget your time well and stay on top of things and don't fall behind," he added. "Just be mature about it and handle your business.


"I've got my feet pretty firm on the ground."


In the early days of spring practice, Lewis spent ample time picking the brain of his roommate, Stocco, asking questions about the playbook and what to look for when reading the defense.


"He still asks a few questions now but when we get home we just try to relax," Stocco said. "We are up to doing football stuff all day so when we get home we just kind of want to relax."


On the field, there have been sparkling signs of growth: a well-placed deep pass, a ball zipped over the middle, a deft ball fake or nifty movement in the pocket.


"There's some signs of the positives, a couple of balls here and there," Lewis said. "Right now, I'm just trying to learn and get a feel for everything.


"As far as goals right now, it's just to be comfortable with the system. I'm not going to be able to achieve anything beyond that until I'm comfortable with the system. Right now that's priority No. 1."

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