LSU doesn’t dip into the JUCO well often. Frankly, it rarely works out. They hit on Zach Mettenberger, but the rest of this list put together by Ross Dellenger over the past decade are a bunch of misses. It’s mostly odds and ends and a few outright busts. This was, of course, during the Miles era. But even under Saban, players like Mario Stevenson and E.J. Kuale never really became the type of elite playmakers we anticipated they would be.
So it’s interesting to see Orgeron turn immediately to the JUCO pool in his 2nd, and first full, recruiting class. O isn’t just counting on these JUCO signees being odds and ends. He needs impact players.
Coming out of HS, Damien Lewis had no following. He had offers from Texas State and Southern Miss. He believed he could do better. Information is difficult to come by, but its safe to assume Lewis faced academic issues which prevented him from receiving more attention. So he enrolled at Northwest Mississippi Community College and spent the next two season honing his craft.
His offer list grew to 18. Troy and Memphis. Houston and FAU. West Virginia, South Carolina, Ole Miss and finally LSU. He took visits to South Carolina, Kentucky, Ole Miss, West Virginia and finally LSU. As LSU’s season wore, the need to rebuild the offensive line grew more and more apparent. While LSU may have opened the season believing they needed only a veteran tackle addition to the signing class, now they came away feeling they needed an interior target as well. The staff identified Lewis and offered him in October. After his official visit in November, he verbally committed to LSU and signed during the early signing period.
110 - 101 = Franchise Player. One of the best players to come along in years, if not decades. Odds of having a player in this category every year is slim. This prospect has “can’t miss” talent.
100 - 98 = Five-star prospect. One of the top 30 players in the nation. This player has excellent pro-potential and should emerge as one of the best in the country before the end of his career. There will be 32 prospects ranked in this range in every football class to mirror the first round of the NFL Draft.
97 - 90 = Four-star prospect. One of the top 300 players in the nation. This prospect will be an impact-player for his college team. He is an All-American candidate who is projected to play professionally.
89 - 80 = Three-star prospect. One of the top 10% players in the nation. This player will develop into a reliable starter for his college team and is among the best players in his region of the country. Many three-stars have significant pro potential.
79 - below = Two-star prospect. This player makes up the bulk of Division I rosters. He may have little pro-potential, but is likely to become a role player for his respective school.
247 Composite Ranking: ***
247 Composite Rating: .8656
Lewis rates as a solid 3-star prospect. At 6’3”, 326, he’s got a frame that’s ready to play, as you would expect from a to-be Junior. Perhaps most interestingly, Lewis actually has three years to play two, so if the staff found reason to slap a RS on him, they could extend his depth potential by another year. That said, if he gets a RS, something probably went awry. He’s the no. 3 JUCO OG in the nation. I don’t put a ton of stock in JUCO rankings, but its fair to say he wasn’t one of the highly rated JUCO prospects in the country. That said, he played for a relatively obscure CC in a town most people have never heard of.
There’s a few main items that standout about Lewis on first glance. First of all, he’s wide. He’s got one of those thick builds in every direction that vintage interior lineman often have. Physically, he looks a bit like Trai Turner.
Next, his athleticism pops. He can get up and move really well for a big man. He’s nimble on his feet, and looks really natural pulling and trapping.
His fundamentals are inconsistent. At times, he flashes the ability to play with great leverage and hand usage. Other times he looks like “Me caveman. Me big. Me strong. Me run fast. Me hit hard.” He’s just big and moving around and throwing his body into the way. Which hey, power to ya, but it’s not exactly gonna work so well in the SEC.
You can see how strong he is on tape. When he plays with leverage and gets his hands on a defender, it’s game over for that player. All in all, a ton of physical upside here, but he needs to be polished up.
To me, he’s a very raw player, but I’m betting he’s one of the five starters come Miami. Orgeron had a lot of praise for Lewis after early practices. Things quieted down, but Lewis is still fighting for one of those interior spots. Lloyd Cushenberry is the supposed starter at C and while he’s waited his turn, this staff may simply feel more comfortable rolling with a player they handpicked. Brumfield will hold down one guard spot, and it’s hard to imagine Ed Ingram being unseated from the other after his strong freshman campaign. Perhaps new OL coach James Cregg shifts Ingram to the RT spot to make way for Lewis. At any rate, I expect an egalitarian approach to finding that best 5, with the exception of maybe Brumfield and Charles. I’m betting Lewis finds his way into that bunch.
He’s got two years and if he can be a two-year starter as a 3-star JUCO player, he’s an absolute hit as a recruit. He won’t be a star, but he should be a reliable player assuming Cregg can iron out the rough edges of his technique.
High End: Multi-year starter. Mid-round draft pick.
Low End: Rotational depth. Never starts.
Realistic: I think Lewis will rotate in and out of the lineup this year, barring injuries thrust him into a total starting role and he will take a full-time starting role in 2019.