Redshirt Season has Lewis Primed to Be a Playmaker
Eugene Lewis’ playing career at Penn State is getting a later start than expected, but the slight delay may help him in the long run.
The receiver came to Happy Valley as the highest rated player in the Nittany Lions’ 2012 recruiting class, a 4-star prospect and the fourth best player in the state of Pennsylvania according to Rivals, but wide receiver was not always Lewis’ primary position.
Lewis was recruited as a receiver despite playing quarterback at Wyoming Valley High School in Plymouth, Pennsylvania. The 6-1, 198 pound prospect received immediate praise from Bill O’Brien upon his official commitment and arrival. It was thought that he would contribute right away as a true freshman, but depth at the position ultimately led to Lewis being redshirted last season.
“I wasn’t expecting it [to be redshirted] at first,” said Lewis after Saturday’s Blue-White game in Beaver Stadium. “But I realized all the coaches had the best interest of me. They knew what was right, and I’m glad they did it.”
“They just figured they had some guys there that could play. They didn’t want to waste my year. They helped me at the end, and I’m glad that decision was made. They had to go through a couple of the games to see what happened, and then Coach O’Brien made the decision.”
“He has done everything we have asked him to do,” said O’Brien. “This guy was a high school quarterback and we are asking him to play receiver in a fairly complex offense to play receiver, to recognize coverages and how you route change versus different coverages.”
Despite standing on the sidelines on fall Saturdays, Lewis learned a lot during the 2012 campaign. He had the opportunity to play against the first-team defense every week on the scout team including simulating Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller leading up to the game against the Buckeyes.
“It helped me a lot. I realized I had a lot of things to work on. At the end of the day, I knew it was going to help me,” Lewis said.
When not assisting the defense in preparing for the next opponent, Lewis was watching and observing, specifically teammate and Big Ten leading receiver Allen Robinson.
“He’s a great guy, great player,” said Lewis of Robinson. “He’s one person I definitely look up to. He’s definitely someone’s game I look at.”
Robinson would return the compliment, saying Lewis has impressed him and should be a big part of the offense.
Back on the field after watching and learning, Lewis showed flashes of his great potential throughout the spring. During an open practice, he hauled in a deep ball down the right sideline from quarterback Tyler Ferguson. His one catch on Saturday was only for 8 yards but again displayed the athleticism of the young receiver as he reached back to make a one-handed grab.
Despite all the hype, his exact role remains somewhat undefined heading into the summer. Brandon Moseby-Felder started the final nine games opposite Robinson last season. Matt Zanellato had a strong performance on Saturday with four catches for 53 yards, and so did early enrollee Richy Anderson, recording three receptions for 17 yards and a touchdown.
“I’ll probably be more outside, but whatever Coach O’Brien wants me to do, I’ll do. When Coach O’Brien tells me my role, that’s what I’m going to do, and I’m going to do it to the best of my ability.”
Part of that role could even come on special teams as a punt or kick returner.
“I’ve done some kick returns and punt returns. We’re just trying to see what everyone can do on special teams.”
Whatever Lewis’ job ends up being, he is confident that a year of patience will lead to four year of success, and so is the man who will ultimately decide how Lewis should best be utilized.
“What a fantastic kid. You talk about a guy that has a smile on his face everyday. I can’t say enough about him. I think he’s got an excellent future here at Penn State, and I love coaching him, ” said O’Brien.