Jon Lewis Leads Inexperienced D-Line Group - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Jon Lewis Leads Inexperienced D-Line Group

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University High School graduate Jon Lewis works a defensive line drill in Morgantown. (PHOTO: Geoff Coyle) University High School graduate Jon Lewis works a defensive line drill in Morgantown. (PHOTO: Geoff Coyle)
MORGANTOWN -

Suddenly, Jon Lewis finds himself in a leadership role at his position.

A year ago, no one questioned who would be the first three players to step up and run through each defensive line drill because those three happened to be among the team’s most experienced veterans.

Noble Nwachukwu, Christian Brown and Darrien Howard left West Virginia University with 56 combined career games. Those three finished their careers with an average of 46 games each.

They left behind a group that features far fewer snaps and exactly one career start.

The most experienced of the group is Lewis, a Morgantown native who has mostly contributed to special teams during his four years with the program. Now a redshirt-senior, the University High School graduate is listed behind Adam Schuler II at one of the two defensive end positions.

“We know what we need to do and we know what’s expected of us,” Lewis said this week in Morgantown. “We know all of us need to step up, all of us need to be ready to go and be prepared. We’ve tried to collectively keep each other motivated and keep working, have competition.”

Motivation and competition are always a key aspect of the spring and they are always separated from one another by a fine line. You motivate your competition to be better, but you make sure you are working even harder so that your competition doesn’t end up ahead of you on the depth chart come Sept. 3.

“If you’re a competitor, you want that,” Lewis said. “If you’re slacking, the other person is going to be there. You invite competition because you have to step up, you have to get better, and it’s all making the team better and that’s the biggest goal.”

Lewis has flirted with the offensive side of the ball, taking a stab at tight end last offseason before settling back into the defensive line, and he credits the work he has done in the weight room for allowing him to add 10 pounds and compete against the bigger bodies on the offensive line.

That extra strength will come in handy as he and the rest of the defensive linemen try to show versatility in an effort to get the best three out there, no matter where they have to line up.

“We’re just trying to keep working these guys and trying to keep moving them in different spots just to see where the right fits are and honing in on technique,” defensive line coach Bruce Tall said. “All of that will take care of itself by the fall. I’m not overly concerned with that process.”

This being his final spring camp, ahead of his final season at West Virginia, Lewis possesses the same sense of urgency that many seniors feel knowing that in less than a year’s time, this will all be over.

A native of the Mountain State and one who has contributed on special teams throughout his career may sound like a familiar tale from the Spring of 2016 – that’s because, according to the head coach, Lewis’ story is very similar to that of one of last season’s starting linebackers.

“Along the same lines of Justin Arndt,” Dana Holgorsen said, referencing the Martinsburg native. “Been here a long time. Smart kid, cares, grew up a Mountaineer. Important to him. Gives it everything he’s got. He’s helped us much like Justin did for four years on special teams, scout team – whatever he’s got to do to win. To see him fighting for a starting job, it’s the same thing that Arndt did last year. Hopefully Jon can make a difference for us on defense as well moving forward.”

The first signs that he is making a difference come in the repetitions of spring practice. On top of the playing experience that last year’s starters took with them, they also had a reputation of leading each drill during the week. The three starters took the first three turns through any given period in practice, so who steps up to take the first rep this year?

“Jonnie’s a guy that we’re counting on to be a leader for us in that room,” Tony Gibson said of Lewis. “[I] Just love the way that kid prepares himself to come to practice and just everything about him. In the classroom, in the weight room – I don’t know if he’s ever been on a list the whole time he’s been here with anything negative. He’s just a great young man. He’s proud to wear that WV on that helmet and it means a lot to him. He’s a special kid and we’re looking for him to have a great season.”

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