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CU Safety Lewis Sees Stability, Maturity With 2022 Buffaloes

Aug 4, 2022
Isaiah Lewis had two interceptions last season, a number he aims to increase this year.

BOULDER — In his time at Colorado, safety Isaiah Lewis has played for three different head coaches, three different defensive coordinators and three different position coaches.

But now, in his sixth season in Boulder, Lewis and his teammates believe they finally have a sense of stability as the Buffaloes enter their third year under the direction of head coach Karl Dorrell.

"We undoubtedly needed that stability, that feeling that we are going in the right direction," Lewis said after Thursday's practice. "We needed that trust, the accountability and maturity that comes with that across the board. You can feel a different level of confidence now."

Not that the coaching staff has remained the same since Dorrell took the reins in 2020. Last winter, he conducted a major overhaul, bringing on six new assistants, including four on the offensive side.

But the building blocks of the culture Dorrell began putting in place when he arrived are still there.

For Lewis, whose growth has been a steady climb to the top of the depth chart since his redshirt season of 2017, the continuity of the same position coach for the last three seasons — Brett Maxie — has been a steadying influence. Meanwhile, the Buffs are entering their second year of defensive coordinator Chris Wilson's scheme, another element of continuity he believes will help the defense take a step forward this season.

"We're not looking for a comfort level as much as we are improved execution every day," Lewis said. "But now, we're not trying to not make mistakes. We're working on being more efficient, knowing the keys, knowing our run fits and being confident that we're executing at a high level. We believe we can be a lethal defense."

Colorado's defense had some solid moments last year, but injuries and an inconsistent offense took their toll. If CU is indeed to take a significant step forward, Lewis will be a critical piece of the puzzle as he is the sole returning regular starter in CU's secondary.

The situation puts him in a leadership role he relishes.

"Our coaching staff has put an emphasis on leadership at every position group," Lewis said. "We have a team of guys who want to be here and play for Colorado. It's my job to lend the benefits of my experience and help everyone grow."

Lewis' ascension to the top of CU's depth chart didn't come overnight. After his redshirt season in 2017, he played in two games in 2018 and three in 2019 before becoming a full-time starter in 2020. In that abbreviated season, he led the Pac-12 in pass breakups with eight while starting the last five games.

Last season, he took his game up another notch, starting in 10 of 12 games while leading the team in tackles with 79 and also recording a pair of interceptions.

This year, he has set his sights on producing more takeaways — an area in which the CU defense definitely needs to improve — along with continuing to set an example for young players.

That guidance will no doubt be needed. He saw some tremendous growth in the spring and summer from fellow safeties Dylan Dixson, Trevor Woods, Jaylen Striker and Anthony Lyle, and expects more improvement as fall camp proceeds.

Lewis said he is seeing the same progress from a group of young cornerbacks.

"People say, 'Oh no, you lost this guy or that guy,'" Lewis said. "But they don't see how good the next guy up is. It's fuel and motivation for us. We have some young guys ready to go. Put it this way — there are some dogs on defense and they want to bark."