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August 14, 2010

Lewis shines in first college scrimmage

Athletes generally have different rituals or superstitions they go through in order to mentally prepare for a game. Whether wearing the same lucky socks or listening to the exact song, players find unusual ways to get motivated.

Freshman running back Deantre Lewis prepared for his first college scrimmage Saturday morning at Kajikawa Practice Facility by watching his favorite pre-game movie.

"Basically I just watched the movie 'Friday Night Lights,'" Lewis said. "I just like the last game when they go through the speech, you know, it just helps gets me motivated …the nights before games, that's when I watch it. It just calms me down, gets the insides ready for me to ball the next day."

It was the first time Lewis was able to get a little taste of what game-day will feel like in college. Approximately 150-200 Arizona State fans blanketed the south and west borders of the outside practice field, excited to see the growth of the team as well as how the newcomers are fitting into the system.

"For the first time in my life I've got to say I wasn't nervous when I came out," Lewis said. "I just knew I had to do what I have done my whole life, which is get out there, run hard, and try to get open in the open field."

Offensively, Lewis was a clear standout on the day after having a tremendous week of camp. He had four carries for a team-high 40 yards, one catch for 17 yards, and averaged the most yards per carry among the running backs.

As a true freshman, Lewis adds diversity to his position in being able to add a combination of speed and power in the backfield. He is able to run well inside and break through tackles well, which is not expected at first glance of his 5-foot-10, 193 pound frame. However, the depth and spark Lewis provides to the position is his biggest gift.

"He's done a tremendous job," quarterback Steven Threet said. "He's come in and done the best he can to learn the offense. He's explosive with the ball and it's a great asset for us quarterbacks to have, to give him the ball and let him make plays on the sidelines. He's really good. He makes people miss but he runs with power and breaks tackles too. He's definitely a really good asset to have on offense."

The competition is tight at the running back position with sophomores Cameron Marshall, Jamal Miles and James Morrison all playing well in camp.

"All of it is competition when you get on the field," Lewis said. "James Morrison, Cameron Marshall -- they're not going to let me have it so it's going to be competition with all backs pushing each other. So we are just going to come out here and ball each day."

Naturally, Lewis was a little overwhelmed becoming familiar with the Sun Devils' offense.

"I'm actually kind of surprised because I never thought I would get the offense down," he said. "Because the way the playbook was given to me, it was a thick book so I was like, 'Dang I'm never going to get this down.' But now it comes pretty easy."

One of the most difficult parts for a running back transitioning from high school to college is learning how to block effectively, and Lewis is conscious of how he must adjust.

"I never pass protected in high school at all," Lewis said. "My high school offense was really just the run game -- a powerhouse -- so I really got to work on that.

"It's not my (familiar) style but I can get prepared for that. It's come pretty easy to me so it's something I need to do and need to continue to work on. Basically my style has been the downhill running back. I'm not a shifty back; I've learned to one cut and get going."

Coach Dennis Erickson has noticed how well Lewis has acclimated to the system and agreed with his young running back on what he'll need to focus on to become a better player.

"He's caught on real well," Erickson said. "He's a very bright young man, understands the game. He comes from Norco which is one of the best high schools in the country so he was coached really well and he doesn't make too many mental mistakes. The biggest thing he's got to do is learn pass protections and how to pass protect. You don't do much of that in high school."

As for Lewis's very first scrimmage, everything seemingly went his way. He was able to show coaches, teammates and fans that he is a strong candidate for the starting nod and should see a lot of action this season.

"Shoot, you're not going to keep a guy like that off the field," Erickson said. "You're going to play three or four of them. One thing we're trying to do offensively is we can get different personnel groups for what we're doing. When we have two running backs in there we can get Jamal (Miles) and Deantre at the same time."


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