Locked-in Lewis could be valuable for MSU

MSU's Leo Lewis, left
Staff Writer

A quick Google search of Leo Lewis’ name these days produces results that have little to do with what Mississippi State’s sophomore linebacker has done on the football field.
Lewis, expected to be one of MSU’s defensive forces this fall on the gridiron, is currently involved in a pair of attention-grabbing, off-the-field happenings. Reports say that Lewis will be requested to attend Ole Miss’ Committee on Infractions hearing later this year after Lewis allegedly testified against the Rebels during the NCAA’s investigation into Ole Miss. Lewis’ alleged testimony also has him as a defendant in a defamation lawsuit filed by Oxford-based clothing store Rebel Rags.
With all that going on, Mississippi State hasn’t made Lewis available for interviews so far in preseason camp. In practice though, Lewis is letting his actions do plenty of taking according to Bulldogs defensive coordinator Todd Grantham.
“He’s competing and he’s working,” Grantham said of Lewis. “He’s a guy that has a lot of pride in himself and his work. I’m certainly glad that he is so focused.”
A focused Lewis is likely a scary Lewis to opposing offenses. Lewis led all Southeastern Conference freshmen with 79 tackles a season ago. That total was 30 more than the next-closest player. Lewis’ production led to him becoming the very first Football Writers Association Freshman All-American in MSU history.
The exciting thing for Grantham is that he believes Lewis can even be much better.
“I think the biggest thing for (Lewis) is for him to become a complete player,” Grantham said. “From a physicality standpoint, he’s going to be a physical guy. He’s going to be the first guy when you go to physical drills and doing those kind of things. He’s going to be physical on the run.
“As a linebacker though, you’ve got to be able to have the total package from a coverage standpoint and be able to understand drops and those kind of things. Those are somewhat new to him and that’s the things we work on every day.”
Grantham emphasizes Lewis is improving in those areas.
“He has a great understanding of what he needs to do,” Grantham said. “I think it’s now more about habitual traits and understanding here are the habits based upon the technique, and here’s how I need to play it based upon the formation. That stuff comes with repetition and that’s what we’ll give him throughout the rest of camp to become more of a complete player.”
To this point, it appears that the only thing that could slow down Lewis’ progression is all the off-the-field noise. From an eligibility standpoint, MSU has at no point given any indication that Lewis might have to be held out at any point. In fact, Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen told reporters at Southeastern Conference Media Days that he absolutely expects Lewis to be available for all games, barring injury.
For Lewis’ part, he doesn’t give any impressions that he is distracted. He is catching his coaches’ eyes on the practice fields. Furthermore, the last time he was made available to reporters back in the spring, he said he was paying no attention to all the other stuff going on around him.
That’s good news for the Bulldogs and bad news for the rest of the SEC. A locked in Lewis is dangerous. That’s exactly what Grantham is counting on.
“He’s a guy that really wants to do well and he improves every day,” Grantham said. “He is certainly a guy we’re going to look to be a major contributor to what we’re doing.”