As fall camp breaks for Chadron State this week the Eagle defense will have plenty of competition for starting spots with one of the top units in the RMAC losing its entire starting front line and key pieces to the secondary.
But it’s in between those units where CSC is going to come into camp consistent and strong with a trio of experienced and hard-hitting linebackers that will be counted on to help bring a youthful defense along early.
Junior Tyler Lewis will stare down quarterbacks at the MIKE linebacker spot where he quickly blossomed into a touchdown producer on defense and special teams his first two seasons, but even more so has dished out some of the most bone-crushing hits from his 5’11”, 195-pound frame that we’ve seen.
Those hits might get even more intimidating this fall with the way Lewis improved himself this offseason in Chadron.
“I just worked hard, I lifted every day, ran, getting the minor details better,” Lewis says. “That’s about all I did was workout and work all summer.”
Tuning up the minor details of the CSC defense will make Lewis more effective as a leader and as one of the elder statesmen on the defense. He’s preparing for a larger role and responsibility as he sets his goals for fall camp.
“For me it’s just understanding the scheme better. Each year I pick up a little more, a little more, and now I just want to expand upon the linebacker position and also know what everybody else is doing. We have a lot younger group than we’ve had in the past, and being able to help the D-line get in the right position, help them with their assignment, will ultimately help us (linebackers) as well,” said Lewis. “It’s the same with the secondary too, some of those young guys. Anywhere I can learn a little more to help them when we’re out there on the field that’ll just make us a better team.”
Lewis accounted for 61 stops in 2017, making him the team’s fifth-leading tackler. The three guys ahead of him are gone, but the team’s top tackler the past two seasons will be lining up with Lewis again – Keenan Johnson. Merritt Crabtree stopped 48 plays a year ago and he returns as well to form a very good trio in the middle of CSC’s defense.
Coming into fall camp last year a lot of the talk from the offensive side of the ball gave credit to the defense, which helped the offense get better by having to go up against a strong defense each day in practice. Well, coming into 2018, it’s the Eagle defense that will face what’s expected to be one of the better offenses in the league on a day-to-day basis.
“They’re (CSC offense) looking great this year. Most of our O-line is returning, everybody except for Barden. It’s looking like Austin Rapp or Sam McKinley might be taking over that spot and they’re both great guys and they’ll do great in that position,” Lewis says. “We’re going to have Dalton (Holst) back this year and TD (Stein at quarterback) both experienced guys. We have a pretty deep wide receiver corps this year, Brandon Fullerton, Tevon (Wright), Colt Foster at tight end (pre-season All-RMAC). Pretty deep in running back this year too. We should have a good group of offensive guys.”
Practice was set to open Monday afternoon on campus and continue everyday with meetings, workouts, weights and field sessions peppered through the month until the season opener on September 1.