Football: Lewis gets lots of advice in quest to be UL's QB starter
Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, July 7, 2018
He’s the one usually throwing passes.
But as he arrived at UL, Levi Lewis found himself on the receiving end of some sage advice that the Ragin’ Cajuns quarterback took to heart.
“I’ve got to be hungry,” said Lewis, who started the year in a battle to be the Cajuns’ starting QB when UL opens its 2018 season at home against Grambling, followed by a visit to Mississippi State and a home game against Coastal Carolina before a visit to Alabama.
“My dad (Greg) told me when I first got here, ‘Just stay hungry and stay humble and do what you’ve got to do.’”
Pops wasn’t the only one dishing words of wisdom.
“My mom (Celeste), my family, my coaches, my mentors — they’d just tell me just be me; be the guy I am and do what I’ve been doing,” said Lewis, who has three brothers and a sister. “‘Do what got you here. You can’t fake it, because if you fake it it’s gonna bend and break you at some point in time.’”
It’s something to keep in mind as Lewis tries to do what he did for three games as a true freshman last season: start.
The product of Scotlandville Magnet High in Baton Rouge began the offseason as one of several contenders to start under first-year coach Billy Napier, with Andre Nunez and Jordan Davis also chief among them.
The field was quickly whittled with Kadon Harrison’s move to receiver early in spring practice.
Shortly after UL’s spring game in April, Davis — who began last season as the Cajuns’ starter, and had one year of eligibility remaining — left the program.
That left Lewis and Nunez as the top two contenders, although since then another quarterback evidently has entered the picture to help with depth.
UL has not yet acknowledged the supposed addition.
But Quentin Gibson, a product of Archbishop Shaw High in the New Orleans area, now identifies on his personal twitter account as a “University of Louisiana QB.”
Gibson spent two seasons at Toledo of the MAC, redshirting in 2014 and not playing in 2015, and played an injury-abbreviated season last year at East Central (Mississippi) Community College.
SOLID SPRING GAME
As for Lewis, he certainly is a contender — especially after a spring game in which he finished 14-of-22 for 275 yards and two touchdowns.
It was a solid showing after a freshman year in which Lewis burned his redshirt just to appear in four late-season games, including starts in a win over South Alabama (his debut), a loss at Ole Miss and a loss to Georgia Southern.
At the time, it appeared Lewis could be UL’s quarterback of the future.
Hampered by an ankle injury, he completed 28-of-54 passes for 377 yards and two touchdowns, finishing with a completion percentage of 51.9 percent, and ran 37 times for 175 yards and one touchdown, averaging 4.7 yards per attempt.
But Davis started a season-ending loss at Appalachian State with a potential bowl bid on the line, coach Mark Hudspeth was fired at the end of a 5-7 year that capped three straight losing seasons and former Clemson and Arizona State offensive coordinator Napier was hired a short time later — leaving Lewis to have to prove himself to a new coaching staff.
He seemed to take all the change in stride.
“No matter what it is,” Lewis said back in the spring, “a champion is gonna adjust.
“So no matter what (UL’s offense is) — underneath center all the time, gun all the time, mixing it — I would have to adjust. I went in with that mindset, and did so.”
He emerged from the spring game as the favorite to start in the eyes of at least some, if not many, and went into offseason work this summer looking to improve on technique.
He said he wanted a better “go ball.” He wanted to throw better inside routes. He wanted to head into preseason camp with better drop steps, and better timing with his receivers too.
“Just the little things — because the little things are going to carry over when the game is on the line,” Lewis said.
Using NBA comparisons as if he where the point guard, Lewis suggested he wanted to better learn where which receivers best like to get the ball, who’s gonna go up and get it, who favors finesse.
It’s a process that started last year, when — albeit late, as his redshirt wasn’t removed until the season’s final month — he started to develop a comfort level with UL’s primary pass-catchers, almost all of whom, including Keenan Barnes, Ja’Marcus Bradley, Ryheem Malone and Michael Jacquet, are returning.
“But there’s always room for improvement. I’m never satisfied,” Lewis said. “I always want to be perfect — even though we can’t really be perfect.”
As he strives for just that anyway, Lewis acknowledges there are attributes Nunez enjoys that he’d love to have too: “His timing, how smooth he is in the pocket, how he maneuvers around, his release.”
With competition like that, and knowing he’s still learning to identify fronts and complicated coverage schemes, Lewis said he’s simply “grateful” for the opportunity to be in the battle to start.
And as the fight continues to unfold, he leans on all that advice family and friends have offered.
“You can’t go through the motions any day,” Lewis said, “because if you slack off it will be that one little rep that … can knock you off your rhythm.”
Lewis wants to stay on beat, especially knowing he has three full seasons of eligibility remaining.
That long-term potential, however, is not something he obsesses over.
Rather, it’s all about the here-and-now.
“I wouldn’t say it’s more pressure,” Lewis said of the chance to start for three full seasons, “because I don’t have (any) room to be pressured. No time.”
After all, he added, competitors are trying “to get it, just like me.”
“It’s all going to come down to who wants it the most,” Lewis said, “and I can say I can’t have (any) time to be nervous.
“No pressure. I don’t have time for that. I’ve got to just blow that off and kill that with a sledgehammer.”
That established, Lewis also knows it’s possible he’ll have to wait his turn and back up someone more experienced.
But, he hastened to add, “when the time comes, I’ve got to shine.”