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April 10, 2014
By Tony Mancuso
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Developing a strong rapport between receivers and their quarterback is essential to a successful passing game.
With increased playing time, Lewis gained confidence and played his best football in the season finale at Wisconsin. The Wilkes-Barre native connected with Hackenberg three times for 91 yards, including 59-yard touchdown reception and a 1-yard score, in the 31-24 win over the Badgers.
Since that day, Lewis has not looked back and is ready to play a big role on the offense in 2014.
"This spring has gone really well for me," Lewis said. "Christian and I are really seeing eye to eye now. I definitely worked on a lot of things that I needed to work on, but I am really excited for the season."
Albeit just a redshirt sophomore, Lewis is the top returnee on the receiving corps. Playing in all 12 games last season with four starts, Lewis made 18 receptions for 234 yards and had three touchdowns. Sophomore Richy Anderson, who had 13 catches for 111 yards and junior Matt Zanellato, who made four receptions for 53 yards, are the only other two receivers on the roster with career receptions.
With inexperience in the corps, Lewis knew that he needed to step up during the offseason to become a go-to target for Hackenberg.
"My main thing (during the winter) was route running," Lewis said. "With Coach Gattis coming in and teaching us some new things, it really helped me a lot transitioning out of my routes (with more speed). I think that is going to be a big change for me this year in my routes."
Two-time Big Ten Receiver of the Year Allen Robinson and graduated senior Brandon Felder are gone from the roster, and Lewis views 2014 as a great opportunity.
"I'm happy to be in this position, a higher spot than last year," Lewis said. "I'm confident in going out there to make more plays to help the team win."
A gifted athlete with good speed and great jumping ability, Lewis's athleticism has impressed head coach James Franklin during spring practice.
"I've been very pleased with him. He's a big bodied kid with great ball skills, tremendous leaping ability, been very impressed with him in red zone and long ball situations," Franklin said. He's a great kid, working hard, him and hack are starting to build a rapport and that's got to continue to grow. Between now and start of summer camp, he has to take that next step."
With 13 spring practices down, the Nittany Lions will hold a session on Friday before the culmination of spring drills during Saturday's Blue-White Game in Beaver Stadium.
"I'm really excited for the game, I know that my teammates are," Lewis said.
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