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Utah State football: Aggie sophomore Rayshad Lewis pulling double duty in spring ball

First Published      Last Updated Mar 30 2017 08:58 pm


USU football notes » Budding star at receiver is now also working at corner.

Utah State sophomore Rayshad Lewis had spent the previous three weeks of spring football practice as a wide receiver learning a new offense, trying to evade defensive backs and snag passes out of the air. This week, he flipped the script, ditched his blue jersey worn by offensive players in favor of a white jersey and lined up at defensive back.

During Thursday's practice, Lewis, the son of former NFL All-Pro linebacker and Super Bowl MVP Ray Lewis, jammed receivers at the line of scrimmage, defended jump balls in the end zone and reacted to receivers' breaks at just the split second needed to break up a potential pass completion.




During Friday afternoon's intrasquad scrimmage, the second of the spring for the Aggies, Lewis will play defensive back exclusively.

"Rayshad has the ability to play both ways," Aggies coach Matt Wells said. "He's a talented young man. He was actually a corner before he ever became a wide out in high school, and he's got a lot of natural ability at corner. It's something that — I wanted to give him a full week in meetings and on the practice field to see how he does. … He can get in and out of his breaks. He's got great make-up speed. He's got a great football mindset. He's just a football player."

After his one-week crash course in the Aggies defensive scheme, Lewis will practice with the receivers again next week. However, he'll likely see action on both sides of the ball in the Blue vs. White spring game on April 8. Wells said the staff may revisit Lewis playing both ways during training camp.

A 5-foot-10, 165-pound dynamo from Orlando, Fla., Lewis established himself as a rising star, playing in every game for the Aggies as a freshman and starting seven at wide receiver. His 40 receptions and 476 receiving yards were the second-most in program history by a freshman.

Lewis' speed has made him a valuable big-play threat. His first collegiate touchdown came on a 43-yard reception against Air Force. He also hauled in a 68-yard reception against Arkansas State (the team's longest pass play of the season) and broke off a 59-yard touchdown run against Nevada.

"Originally, I was recruited as a corner and then I got switched to receiver," Lewis said. "When I got here, they always knew I had an interest and a love for the defensive side of the ball. We had kind of just agreed to get through the first year smooth, just focus on offense. Then we kind of both said during spring we'll see how it goes, and if I wanted to jump over to corner he'd give me that opportunity."

Lewis, who was largely overlooked by Bowl Championship Subdivision teams because of his small stature, earned first-team all-state honors as a cornerback in high school senior. In his final prep season, he helped lead Bishop Moore to the Florida 5A state championship. After having not played wide receiver during the regular season, Lewis caught seven passes (two touchdowns) for 94 yards in the state championship game as part of stellar performance that included 239 all-purpose yards.

Lewis acknowledged he had to knock off some rust this week at cornerback, but he wouldn't pick one a position over the other as his favorite.

"I always had it as a thought, it would be great to be one of those athletes that can go both ways," Lewis said. "My main focus was just trying to be the best, whether I was at receiver or corner — just competing and being the best. When it came down to it, I was always up for competing on either side of the ball."

Schedule 2019 and beyond

Wells confirmed that the Aggies have booked nonconference games against LSU and Stony Brook in 2019 as well as a game against Southern Utah in 2020 and North Dakota in 2021. Stony Brook, Southern Utah and North Dakota are all members of Football Championship Subdivision.

Interactive spring game

The Utah State athletic department announced an online contest where fans can enter to win an "Aggie experience" at the annual spring game on April 8. For fans age 21 or older, can enter for the chance to field a punt, kick a field goal or call a play as a guest coach during the game. Youths (up to eighth grade) can also enter for a chance to be a "junior reporter" and interview players and coaches on the sideline.

lworthy@sltrib.com

Twitter: @LWorthySports

 

AT A GLANCE

Pro potential

The Aggies will hold their annual pro day workout Friday morning at the ICON Sports Performance Center and the Stan Laub Indoor Training Center. The session will be closed to the public. The Aggies staff expects at least 18 NFL teams and possibly as many as 30 to have representatives in attendance.

Former Aggies players scheduled to participate in the combine-style workout will include offensive linemen Austin Albrecht, Jake Simonich and Austin Stephens, wide receivers Devonte Robinson and Kennedy Williams, defensive linemen Rick Ali’ifua and Edmund Faimalo, linebackers Brock Carmen, LT Filiaga and Anthony Williams, defensive backs Devin Centers, Marquan Ellison, Tyler Floyd, Daniel Gray and Jentz Painter, running back Devante Mays, tight end Wyatt Houston and kicker Brock Warren.


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