Aaron Lewis: Working inside and out
Aug. 31, 2008
Jonathan Mann, Texas Media Relations
On both sides of the ball, the Longhorns rely on linemen who can play multiple positions at a high level.
It is by no means an injury emergency policy, but rather a strategic concept designed to provide opponents with various looks, especially on defense, in addition to providing the team with depth. The coaches call it cross-training, and perhaps the best example of such training is found in Aaron Lewis.
The senior from Albuquerque, N.M., has been splitting time between defensive tackle and defensive end. Despite the high demands placed upon him by the coaches, Lewis relishes the chance he's been given.
"It's a great opportunity," Lewis said about playing inside and out. "Not too many guys get to help the team doing both positions, and I'm just glad I'm able to do it."
Lewis nearly split his time down the middle in Saturday's 52-10 victory over Florida Atlantic, playing 16 snaps at defensive end and 14 at tackle.
Playing significant time at two positions is indeed a demanding role and requires an increased effort from all parties. Lewis spends extra time with defensive ends coach Oscar Giles, trying to make up for the lack of real-time reps.
Intelligence is another important factor for Lewis, who plans to graduate in December after only three and a half years on campus.
"We don't just do that to anybody," Coach Giles said of the conversion. "We've got so many different assignments and alignments for the end and the tackle, but Aaron is smart enough to do both. He's a real bright kid."
The main inspiration for Lewis' hybrid status is the importance placed on rushing the quarterback by the Texas coaches.
"He's played in there before at defensive tackle in some passing situations and some packages that we've had over the last couple of years," said defensive tackles coach Mike Tolleson. "But with his strength, intelligence and quickness, he can handle both very well."
"I think when you have an athlete like that, it's easy to make the transition because he's so smart," said fellow senior defensive tackle Roy Miller, who has played a considerable role in helping Lewis learn how to play inside. "He's very relentless, and on the defensive line, that's really important. He's willing to do anything for the team."
Despite the rigor involved with playing at tackle, Lewis is actually lighter this season than last. After losing significant weight following a collarbone injury in last year's holiday Bowl, he has been on a mission to bulk up. Lewis has put on 15 pounds since July, and hopes to add 10 more before season's end.
"I'm not trying to put on fat, I'm trying to put on muscle," Lewis said. "I'm lifting three or four times a week with (strength coach Jeff Madden), and I'm also on a strict dieting regimen."
In this his senior season, Lewis and the coaches share an excitement about his ability to contribute to this year's defense.
"He's been able to do both (positions) very effectively," Giles said. "He did it last year some, so we're excited about him doing it more this year."