The Vols have been prioritizing linebackers that can rush the passer, defend sideline to sideline, and help in pass coverage. This is what Jeremy Pruitt has referred to as a, “Four-for-four,” linebacker. Pruitt means that he can utilize a player like this in any role that any of Tennessee's base four linebackers cover. These types of players are also typically players that never have to come off the field. Pruitt looks to utilize these players as well in the “Star” position on defense. True Star backers that can play all the various facets of the position, which branch out into roles of linebackers, safeties, and even corners, are truly rare to find. As such, those players are highly prioritized by programs across the country, and the competition is fierce. The fit and the type of player make Tennessee's latest recruit even more valuable than his five-star ranking, as Tennessee secures a commitment today from Chaminade-Madonna Prep (Hollywood, FL) linebacker Terrence Lewis.
Lewis is a linebacker able to fill absolutely whatever role is asked of him, and he has been doing so playing high level ball against very good competition in Florida. Lewis is 6’1” and 210 pounds, which may initially seem a little lean for the kind of linebacker that Tennessee has been recruiting of late, but Lewis has a very long, lean frame. The Vols will want to add some muscle to Lewis, but not much as they value his ability to slide out and play the Star role in the defense. Lewis has speed to run down backs and receivers in Florida with excellent speed, which means he can run with most anyone in the country. Lewis brings absolutely elite straight-line speed to the linebacker position, whether he is in coverage, defending the edge of the defense, or blitzing into the backfield. Lewis played primarily as a pure linebacker for Chaminade-Madonna, and he played deeper back as a linebacker than is typical. Lewis is able to do a strange alignment because he can close so fast. He is capable of dropping and playing as an extra safety, picking up a receiver in man coverage, running sideline to sideline to cut off a ball carrier, or coming downhill on a blitz to stuff a running back or hit a passer. The speed Lewis brings is remarkable for a linebacker, and Chaminade-Madonna built their entire defense around maximizing the ability of the elite linebacker.
That said, Lewis is more than just a speed or coverage linebacker. He gets downhill to meet ball carriers with authority. Lewis very much punches above his weight in terms of being a hitter. Lewis doesn't just come down and tackle ball carriers, when he arrives, they tend to wind up in the air with blockers scattering like bowling pins. Lewis will also step up and engage the block of an offensive lineman, stopping them cold or pushing them back into the offensive backfield. Lewis plays through trash to scrape to the edge or shed a block to attack a ball carrier as well as any linebacker in the class. Lewis has the speed to get to anywhere on the field, and the strength to get off of anyone that tries to slow him down getting there, which only makes that pure speed even more dangerous. Combined with his penchant for arriving with a monster hit, Lewis is a dangerous defender, able to take any position on the field and make them pay when he hits them.
Lewis is more than a seek-and-destroy missile, he's a smart weapon. Lewis is rarely fooled on film, picking up on backs, tight ends, receivers, and fakes. He diagnoses plays quickly and then reacts to what he sees. This high football IQ allows Lewis to not only perform on the field at a high level, but to also learn responsibilities of different roles, something that Pruitt is banking on with Lewis in terms of the Star position. The Vols want Lewis to be able to go from an edge-setting traditional linebacker on one play, to sliding out and covering a slot wide receiver effectively one-on-one on the next play. The instincts that Lewis plays with and that he shows on film make it clear that he is capable of handling these different roles efficiently.
Jeremy Pruitt, Derrick Ansley, Shelton Felton, and Brian Niedermeyer will all be excited to add such an incredibly talented, blazing fast, Swiss army knife type of player to their linebacker room. Lewis is one of the top players in the nation at any position, and securing him is a huge landing for Tennessee. As with Dylan Brooks, expect the commitment of such a high caliber athlete to send ripples across the recruiting landscape. Lewis is a rare talent for his position with an incredible amount of potential. He also seems to be a tailor made fit for Jeremy Pruitt's defense, playing in a role that will allow his particular skill set to let him shine. All of this, while being one of the highest rated recruits Jeremy Pruitt has secured a commitment from in his time at Tennessee.