Here's how Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns quarterback Levi Lewis can get better in 2021

Tim Buckley
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

During spring practice in March, UL co-offensive coordinator Michael Desormeaux fielded a question about quarterback Levi Lewis.

He grinned.

“I was up here last night at 7:30, and I walked by the tight end meeting room, and the door was closed, so I know somebody’s in there,” said Desormeaux, who also serves as tight ends coach. “I walk in there, and guess who’s watching film?

“He’s taking ownership of this offense. He’s an unquestioned leader, and you can put more and more on his plate, because he has mentally prepared himself for it.”

Which begs the question: As the No. 23 Ragin’ Cajuns prepare to visit No. 19 Texas on Saturday (3:30 p.m. CT, FOX), what’s the next step?

“The way he ran the ball at the end of the year is really something people are going to see and have to prepare for this year,” Desormeaux said.

“His ability to run the football is really pretty special. The (Appalachian) State game last year was an example. It was in bad conditions, and he just took over with his legs.”

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All about instinct

Compared to when he started three games late in his 2017 freshman season, Lewis has become much more confident knowing how, and when, to use his wheels in UL’s zone option-oriented scheme.

“(Opposing defenses) can’t just go crash on the running back,” running backs coach Jabbar Juluke said, “because you have a threat in the quarterback … and that’s going to take a guy out of the box if they try to contain him, and we’ll be able to run the ball inside with the big ol’ monsters we have.”

UL lost running backs Elijah Mitchell and Trey Ragas, but returns Chris Smith, T.J. Wisham and Emani Bailey.

“When Levi is playing well, which he normally does, and with confidence, there are so many things you can do,” Desormeaux said. “We’ve got so many weapons on the perimeter, in the backfield; a real good offensive line.

“You can spread things out. … You can let Levi (make) decisions on every play.”

Levi Lewis (1),  shown here during an Aug. 9 spring practice, is heading into his third season as UL's full-time starting quarterback.

It’s more than turning and handing the ball off.

“He’s probably checking the direction we’re going, or he probably has an RPO or a pre-snap throw he can make,” Desormeaux said. “So, with Levi you really feel like you can continue to expand on things.”

Perhaps the biggest lesson Lewis learned during a COVID-19 scarred 2020 season was the importance of not forcing things, especially when experiencing pocket pressure.

“Just let the game come to you. If you’ve got to run you’ve got to run,” he said. “It’s an instinct.”

A puzzle-solver

That realization could allow Lewis to improve on last year, when he threw for 2,274 yards but was picked off seven times on 297 attempts – three more interceptions than he had on 378 attempts in 2019.

“There’s a saying, ‘See a little, see a lot; see a lot, see nothing,’ ” said receivers coach Tim Leger, UL’s other co-offensive coordinator.

“Sometimes he sees so much, and he’s gathering so much information … maybe it’s a little overanalytical, and he can process a little faster and maybe play a little faster. But at the end of the day you love that about him. He’s trying to figure it out. He’s trying to solve the puzzle on every play.”

Having more experienced receiver pieces this season should help.

Leger also feels Lewis was impacted last season by COVID-19 issues.

“They’re trying, but you don’t have your 7-on-7s, you don’t have all the things you normally have that get the rhythm and timing of the passing game,” Leger said.

“So I think he’d tell you ‘to not overthink things.’ I think he’d like to be a little bit more accurate sometimes. And for sure I think we’d all agree we need to hit more deep balls.”

Leger saw Lewis’ leadership skills came to the forefront when he tried to dance around COVID restrictions.

Ragin' Cajuns quarterback Levi Lewis shakes hands with Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards during an Aug. 19 COVID-19 vaccination promotion at UL.

“He knew the patrol schedule for all the local high schools, so they could get out there and throw,” Leger said. “They weren’t supposed to be out there. Maybe the patrol went by on Tuesday at 6 o’clock; well, they were out by Tuesday at 6 o’clock. They figured it all out.

“They got caught at some places. But Levi’s that guy.”

He’s also the one still watching film a few hours after Desormeaux finds him at 7:30.

“There was a time last year I was in the building; it was almost 10 o’clock at night,” Leger said. “He peaked his head in my office and said, ‘Coach, my phone’s about to die. Can I borrow your charger?’

“He’s got tremendous ownership, accountability. He wants to be a great player. He’s the kind of guy that makes everybody out there play at a higher level because of the way he goes about his business, and that’s exactly what you want in a quarterback.”