Lewis Poised To Be Exciting Player For Bulldogs
by Bob Carkskadon
As a quarterback in high school, Jameon Lewis was, in a word, electrifying.
"When we saw him on tape, it was ridiculous the things he was doing with the ball," Mississippi State offensive coordinator Les Koenning said.
Then, in his first ever appearance for the Bulldogs as a redshirt freshman, the receiver caught four passes for 113 yards and one touchdown in last year's season-opener against Memphis.
Lewis appeared poised to be the next big star for Dan Mullen.
Since then? Three total catches for 30 yards. Zero touchdowns. And tons of questions. The biggest one: why isn't he playing?
In addition to some trouble holding on to the ball, the 5'10" speedster just didn't know the offense.
"When he showed up here, I mean, he was everywhere," Koenning said. "Didn't know what route he was running, had no clue where he was going."
Cracked junior quarterback Tyler Russell, "Jameon kind of ran his own routes."
A quarterback in high school, Lewis signed with MSU expecting to play cornerback in the SEC.
That changed pretty quickly, though, when Koenning and the staff saw him on campus, but the transition wasn't easy.
"It was really tough, because that whole summer I was working out at cornerback," Lewis said. "Then the first week of camp they moved me to receiver and they were calling plays. I'm like, 'I don't know what to do.' So me, I just ran to an open spot."
His coaches and teammates say Lewis had the talent from day one, he was just off on all of the details that could make him a dependable player in the offense.
When coaches would tell him to run a 12-yard route, Lewis said, he'd only run 10, thinking it was close enough. He didn't realize, at the time, the consequences little things like a couple extra steps had on the timing with the quarterback.
He's also had to learn to understand the words coming out of his quarterback's mouth. In high school, Lewis said the play call was basic and it told him exactly what to do, as he was the quarterback.
"Up here, they call the offensive line protection, and they call what you're supposed to do, then what the running back is supposed to do. You're really supposed to just block all that out and hear the key points of what you're supposed to do," Lewis said. "It took me a while to understand all that play calling, because it was long and I didn't know what to do. I was just running and trying to get open."
This spring, the talented but under-used receiver starting making strides. Something clicked. He saw it, his coaches saw it and his teammates saw it.
As if that light bulb over his head clicked on, Lewis finally understood how to be a receiver and what to do on his routes.
"Now," Russell said, "he's mature and does what coach asks him to do and stuff like that. We never want to take his play-making ability away. Getting the ball in his hands, he's a special type of player, so we're looking forward to getting him the ball."
Said Mullen, "I think he viewed himself as an athlete and kind of 'give me the ball and I can make plays.' I think now he understands that he has to be a wide receiver, as well."
The difference has shown, as Lewis was regularly seen making catches and big plays in spring practices, especially in the Maroon-White spring game in Davis Wade Stadium. Then, again, in the one fall practice open to the public, Lewis was connecting with Russell and getting yards by the chunk.
So much seems to have changed for the sophomore since last season, when he only managed one reception over the last nine games.
"It's a big difference, because I really know the system," Lewis said. "I know what to do, I know when to do it and I know why to do it. The redshirt year and then last year made me more comfortable with the game."
And knowing, as they say, is half the battle.
"Now that he knows what to do," Koenning said, "he's really starting to show up."
Koenning also believes Lewis has fixed his fumbling problems. For the most part, anyway.
Koenning said that, in an ironic twist, it was Lewis's supreme talent in high school that caused his ball-control issues when he got to MSU.
"He's so quick and elusive that he really didn't get pounded on very hard [in high school]," Koenning said. "They couldn't get him. They couldn't tackle him, couldn't hit him. Now, they're pounding on him and he's learning how to protect the football. When he came here, that's one of the critical things that we worked on. Ball security is job security."
Finally, entering his third year and second season, Lewis is ready to make an impact.
"He's gotten better and better and better, and he deserves a chance to play," Koenning said. "He's exciting with the ball in his hands."
And having a talented passer like Russell to get him the ball will only make it easier on Lewis.
Though, as Russell noted, it goes both ways.
"You can throw him the ball and it'll be four guys around him, and he'll make every last one of them miss," Russell said.
Be it punt returns, kickoff returns, direct snaps in the wildcat or quick passes out of the slot, Lewis is ready to show what he can do.
"I feel like no one can really hold me."