Transfer Lewis picking up UND defenseGRAND FORKS — At Los Medanons College, Will Lewis’ California junior college team didn’t win a game in 2011.
By: Tom Miller, The Dickinson Press
GRAND FORKS — At Los Medanons College, Will Lewis’ California junior college team didn’t win a game in 2011.
The poor results didn’t bring a lot of Division I college recruiters to check out games, either.
Lewis, though, made 72 tackles, intercepted five passes and forced three fumbles to earn first-team Golden Gate all-conference honors as a sophomore.
It was enough for University of North Dakota defensive backs coach Benny Boyd to pick up the phone and lure Lewis to Grand Forks.
“I had never heard of (UND football), being so far away,” said Lewis, a native of Pittsburg, Calif. “I had a friend who had gone to the University of Mary, and he told me (UND) had a good football program. So I came on the visit, and I liked it. It’s a nice, safe area.”
In UND’s 45-38 loss to Northern Arizona last Saturday, Lewis came up with two interceptions and now leads the team in that category.
As North Dakota prepares for Saturday’s 2:40 p.m. game against Montana in the Alerus Center, UND hopes Lewis and the rest of the reeling secondary can continue to make progress.
“It was a learning curve for (Lewis),” UND coach Chris Mussman said. “His main role has been on special teams. But he’s becoming more comfortable with what he’s doing. You’re seeing a continued improvement.”
Lewis arrived at UND this summer along with fellow safety transfer Clordion Kennedy as UND tried to patch up a secondary that lacked depth. North Dakota graduated starting safeties Dominique Hawkins and Justin Belotti from last season.
Kennedy, of Antioch, Calif., caught on to UND’s defensive schemes quickly.
“Clordion not only understood what he was supposed to do, but he’s been directing others,” Boyd said. “How fast he picked up our defense was pretty remarkable to be honest.”
Lewis said that has been his biggest hurdle.
“Our defense at my JuCo wasn’t that complex,” Lewis said. “Here, I had to learn a lot of checks. I knew I had to build my way up and work for playing time. I feel a lot better about it now.”
Kennedy has worked his way into the starting lineup. The hard-hitting safety took over starting duties from Baylee Carr three weeks into the year.
Last week, Carr started at strong safety for Erik Mersereau as UND tried to shake things up following the team’s 55-17 loss to Eastern Washington.
Boyd said Lewis and Kennedy have been important acquisitions.
“We have a long way to go to make more plays and give up less big plays,” Boyd said. “But both of those guys are a big part of what we’re trying to do.”
The North Dakota pass defense has struggled mightily this season. The UND pass defense has given up a Big Sky Conference-worst 18 touchdowns.
In hopes of getting more athletes on the defensive side of the ball, UND has moved wide receiver Tyrhe Ivery to the defensive secondary.
Ivery, who has two catches for 26 yards and a touchdown in 2012, could see game time on defense yet this season — perhaps even on Saturday.
“Our secondary is frustrated with the results,” Boyd said. “We have a chip on our shoulder. It’s a group that has been much maligned and with good reason. The only way to quiet the critics is to go make plays.”