Lewis Plays Bigger Role At Tight End

Sept. 16, 2005

Arizona State tight end Zach Miller had 50 more catches than Jamaal Lewis last year.

Lee Burghgraef, primarily a blocking tight end, had two more than Lewis, whose six receptions were down from his redshirt freshman total of 10 in 2003.

'I don't want to say I was content where I was. I don't even know if I was satisfied,' Lewis said. 'I thought my niche was just coming in on third downs and making the big catch if that's what coach needed. Just kind of being a role player in that way. I didn't really have the mind-set that my role on this team could be bigger, because it's Zach Miller's show right now.'


Miller, 2004 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, is off to something of a slow start coming off shoulder surgery and now hobbled by an ankle injury suffered in the third quarter against Louisiana State. That's opened up chances for Lewis, who already has more receiving yards (128) than in his two previous seasons. He leads the No. 18 Sun Devils in receiving touchdowns (three) and yards per catch (25.6).

Lewis is playing like coach Dirk Koetter imagined when he and tight end Aaron Austin were a major part of Koetter's first full recruiting class in 2002.

Austin, out of Fresno Community College, never panned out. Lewis, though, is blossoming in the second year of a double-tight-end offense that vertically stretches the defense down the middle.

Lewis, whose 4.65-second speed for 40 yards is comparable to Miller, met with Koetter going into the summer.

'He basically laid it out there and told me what I needed to do and what my niche could be on this team,' Lewis said. 'Then there had been a lot of rumors that some of the coaches were talking about moving me to wide receiver. So I thought I'll just report in wide receiving shape, and I started running extra and lifting certain stuff I didn't used to lift.'

That melted away 25 pounds. The 6-foot-4 Lewis came into camp at 221 pounds, about his playing weight at Rampart High School in Colorado Springs, rather than the 246 he carried last year.

'I felt like I had more of a grasp on my body,' said Lewis, who started making 'wow' catches on the first day of preseason and has yet to stop.

Tight ends coach Tom Osborne said Lewis' routes on 25- and 26-yard touchdowns against LSU were 'the two best he's ever run.' Osborne attributes it to his improved conditioning, which allows for more concentration on technique and details.

'We've been on him for years to work hard in the off-season and not just show up like in high school,' Osborne said. 'Maybe it was that or him giving in to peer pressure from his teammates, but to his credit he did it.'

Lewis said his family is not surprised by his success. Nor is his high school coach, Mike Sirko, now at Doherty High School, where he coached ASU freshman tailback Shaun DeWitty.

'I get more reaction from my friends,' Lewis said. 'They're more shocked because last year it was like, 'Why aren't you in there? Zach Miller's in there.' Now they're saying, 'Where did that come from? When were you able to do that all of a sudden?' '

'He looks much quicker,' Sirko said. 'He's running really well, and he's always had great mitts. Who's going to argue about Zach Miller? He's a great football player. The bottom line is finding a spot to use Jamaal's talents, and you saw it.'

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