Sophomore wide receiver Kahlil Lewis does not lack confidence. That’s obvious by simply looking at his Twitter handle: @_DBkiller.
“I’m a DB killer,” Kahlil told me. “That’s what I do.”
But he didn’t get many chances as a freshman to show that he was deadly to defensive backs. With six senior wide receivers on the roster last year, including three that are currently in NFL training camps (Johnny Holton, Mekale McKay, Chris Moore), Lewis finished with 3 catches for 53 yards.
“We wish we could have redshirted him last year, but knowing that he needed to be one of our top receivers this year we had to play him,” said head coach Tommy Tuberville. “You can’t redshirt a guy and then all of a sudden say, ‘Here it is.’ You have to be in a game. He was in some tough situations last year and made some catches and I think that’s going to help him this year.”
“We knew losing six seniors that really filled the two-deep that Kahlil might not get a lot of reps, but we thought it would be a good experience for him,” said receivers coach Blake Rolen. “Even traveling week to week, game-planning week to week, and getting those 10 to 20 reps a week adds up at the end of a season. I think he hopefully learned and that will reveal itself this year.”
“Even though I didn’t play that much I worked hard at practice,” said Lewis. “Obviously I was in a tough spot with all the senior receivers. Three of them were invited to the NFL combine, so I learned from them and paid attention.”
In fact, the 18-year-old from Hollywood, Florida can cite specific traits that he picked up from each of the six seniors.
“From Shaq Washington I learned better footwork on my routes,” said Lewis. “From Chris Moore I learned how to use my hands at the top of the route to get open. Mekale McKay was really aggressive. From Johnny Holton I learned how to use my speed. From Max Morrison it was his patience in his routes. With Alex Chisum it was his ball skills. There’s so much stuff that I learned from those guys to add to my arsenal.”
“He’s all about football, growing in the sport, and understanding how to run routes,” said Rolen.
Cincinnati’s leading returning receiver is senior Nate Cole who finished with 19 catches last year. No other wide receiver on the roster has more than four career catches, so Lewis is being counted on to play a much bigger role in his second season.
“I think he’s a playmaker,” said offensive coordinator Zac Taylor. “He’s a guy we’re really going to have to move around and put him in the best spots to get the ball because he’s just a natural football player with good hands and good quickness.”
“He’s going to be a good player for us,” said Rolen. “We’re going to depend on him this year. He’s got the natural athletic ability and now he just has to put it all together.”
Defensive backs beware.
“He’s confident, but like a lot of young receivers he has to understand the difference between confidence and cockiness,” said Rolen. “It was good for him to see what the elite receivers looked like last year. It probably brought him down to earth a little bit, but at the same time you do want your receivers to have a little chip on their shoulder and a little edge about them to go out there and compete on an island one-on-one.”
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