While the COVID-19 pandemic has affected both college football recruiting and high school football seasons on the field, SI All-American was thankful to be able to attend the anticipated matchup between Sunshine State heavyweights Miami Northwestern (Fla.) & Miami Central (Fla.).
The game was littered with college prospects, including SI99 No. 27 overall recruit Terrence Lewis. Committed to Tennessee, the South Florida native is the No. 4 LB prospect in the country, as well as one of the most intriguing players in this 2021 class. Suiting up for Central, Lewis actually began his prep career at rival Northwestern before transferring to Chaminade-Madonna (Fla.) for a short stay prior to opting to ultimately to finish his high school career with the Rockets.
On the hoof, Lewis mildly surprised us by having a thicker upper-body than we anticipated. It appears his arms and biceps have acquired a bit more mass, while he still maintains a tight torso and flat midsection. His lower-half is straight, but wiry and tightly wound. We came away feeling Lewis is indeed in the 6-foot-1, 200-205lb range.
Central deployed Lewis as a stacked linebacker, which we expected. However, not only did he play on the weak-side to the boundary, Lewis actually worked a good amount snaps stacked at the Mike 'backer position.
Lewis is notorious for being one of the most athletic linebackers in recent memory, yet it was other parts of his game that impressed. For starters, he played with better mental processing than we anticipated coming into the game. The future Volunteer showed quick ability to click and close, as well as solid gap integrity. He fit up the run consistently with a quick down-hill trigger, showing assertiveness in alleys and a willingness to challenge runners. Lewis also played in flow well vs. inside and mid-zone run concepts, a testament to his short-area quickness and athleticism.
Another positive aspect we saw from Lewis was his effectiveness in pressure schemes. Central appeared to scheme up some concepts that featured Lewis as a green-dog/hug-rusher and as a classic blitzer to combat Northwestern's passing game. There were also some simulated pressure looks, and Lewis even sugared a few gaps. He showed some savvy and late declaration instincts on a few snaps when he blitzed from both his stacked and flank alignments.
On-field communication is vital in the game of football, especially on defense. If players don't talk and communicate in the pre-snap phase to make sure they are lined up correctly, in the right front and in the correct coverage, then the defense will be at a significant disadvantage. It's common for high school players to struggle to realize this for several different reasons. Yet those who do often see themselves and their teammates play at a higher level.
Lewis routinely communicated to his front-7 teammates. There was one particular snap that saw this fully come to light:
Northwestern was in a pistol alignment, and Lewis recognized one of his defensive linemen aligned in the wrong gap. He quickly approached the defensive front to re-communicate instructions, and grabbed the defensive tackle in the incorrect spot and moved him from a 3-technique to a 1-technique position inside. This forced the center and right guard for Northwestern into the need ace-block the defensive tackle, with the key being the center being briefly occupied before being able to scoop to Lewis. This pre-snap communication adjustment gave Lewis an easy down-hill gap to fill at the snap vs. the run. He certainly fit the alley, shed the center's late scoop and got in on the stop. Again, pre-snap communication and recognition is key, and Lewis showed that on this snap, along with on-field leadership.
We did come away hoping to see Lewis a bit more in coverage than we actually saw during the game. Our intent was to get a better sense of his processing of route distribution in zone concepts, as well as see his wonderful athleticism in man concepts. Plus, he possesses enough raw speed to run the seam as a middle-hole defender in cover-2 schemes, but we still want to see him execute these things consistently on tape. We remain confident, however, that he has the athletic traits to factor in coverage when he arrives on Rocky Top.
All in all, he finished the night with 9 tackles, 1 sack and 1 fumble recovery.
Lewis will need to continue to add more mass to his frame, as well as strength at the point, since he will have to challenge a blocker or two in the run game at some point in his college career. Yet he remains on track to potentially develop as a multi-year starter and 3-down off-ball 'backer for Tennessee.
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