COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The first six weeks of Terrell Lewis’ junior season were a balancing act — a frustrating one, for him.
As Lewis so eloquently and comically put it, when asked about his effort against Texas A&M, “Can’t take plays off. I done missed too many plays.”
Lewis’ well documented injury history made him particularly eager to make the most of the 2019 season. It also forced UA to take a cautious approach with him, limiting practice reps at times and limiting snaps when everything wasn’t perfect.
Saturday’s game at Texas A&M was the first time this season Lewis was fully unleashed on an opponent, with the benefit of the open week prior. Lewis responded with two sacks, two quarterback hurries and other forms of havoc in what was clearly his best performance of the season, part of the 47-28 win over the Aggies. Alabama coach Nick Saban has an idea why this was Lewis’ week.
“It’s the first game he’s really been able to practice and play. He practiced very sparingly when we played Ole Miss, he played about half the time in the game, maybe not even that,” Saban said. “Because he was able to practice more, I think he was able to be more active in the game today, probably more confident and probably more explosive because he was healthier.”
Lewis thought the power of routine had just as much to do with the performance as who accompanied him in it.
Anfernee Jennings, UA’s other starting outside linebacker, is off to an impressive start: second in the SEC in both tackles for a loss (seven) and sacks (four), plus two pass breakups, three quarterback hurries and a forced fumble.
A healthy Lewis paired with Jennings at this level will likely be a tough task for any offensive line. Lewis believes UA is closer to realizing that potential now that he and Jennings are on the same page.
“I think it was a mixture of a lot of things, just as far as me getting used to playing as much and then playing as many snaps as I played today, getting a feel for the game,” Lewis said. “Being in there as much as we did, we had me and Anfernee on the field at the same time so we kind of got a feel for the game instead of us alternating series. I think that played a huge role, even early on.
“Us both being on the field together, you can’t slide to us from an offensive line’s perspective, so I think that really helped us.”
The result is intimidating for quarterbacks — and only partially due to the constant sack threat.
“Me and (Texas A&M) Kellen Mond had a couple of conversations,” Lewis said. “He felt our pressure. I know we were kind of getting after him and he knew it, too.”