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Colorado Buffaloes most important players: #13 Drew Lewis

Lewis will need to put it all together to be a force at linebacker

NCAA Football: Colorado State at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

There has much been year-to-year turnover in the Colorado Buffaloes defense, mostly within the secondary and defensive line. There is little certainty on that side of the ball, except at inside linebacker, where Drew Lewis and Rick Gamboa are there to fortify the Buffaloes defense. Gamboa is a rock, but his potential has a hard limit. Lewis’s potential is seemingly endless, but he has yet to put it all together. If Lewis doesn’t figure it all out, he will be still be a dynamic player, but he will be limited. But if he does figure it out, Lewis could be a star.

Drew Lewis is, above all, a freak athlete. He’s a workout warrior who just so happens to play middle linebacker. It’s obviously great to have a freak athlete roaming the middle of the field — Lewis is touted for his side-to-side range, his ability to match up with running backs in the passing game, and for his quickness rushing the passer. With his versatility, he stuffed the stat sheet in his junior year; he had 94 tackles (5.5 for loss), 2 sacks and 2 pass deflections. Beyond that he had 30 QB pressures, which according to Pro Football Focus, was tied for the most of any linebacker returning in 2018. Perhaps the Buffaloes can get the most out of Lewis’s skillset by playing him at outside linebacker, which they have tried out in pre-season practices. By doing that, CU would simultaneously maximize his pass rushing ability while making room for future star Nate Landman at inside linebacker.

Someone as strong and fast as Lewis can theoretically do everything on defense. Lewis has the potential to be a game-changer if he proves to be as versatile as his athleticism suggests. But gaudy stats aside, there’s much to be desired from Lewis. He’s undisciplined as he often overruns plays and finds himself out of position. He has outstanding plays that pop up on NFL scouting tapes, but those are merely flashes of brilliance, between which he can disappear for extended stretches. The player Lewis is right now is fine, even dangerous, but he could be so much more.

Maybe Lewis has learned a thing or two from Gamboa, a limited athlete who’s a genius playing linebacker. Maybe Lewis can learn from his teammate how to better diagnose plays and how to be in better positions to disrupt the offense. Maybe he can learn how to play without trying to do too much. Maybe, just maybe, he can put it all together. If he does, he could be a star whose impact is felt on every down, whose threat is feared by opposing teams. It probably won’t happen, but Lewis has the potential to transform himself and with him the entire defense.