Film Study: Notre Dame CB commit Clarence Lewis
CB Clarence Lewis, 6-1, 180; Middletown (N.J.) Mater Dei.
The numbers: Lewis intercepted six passes in his junior season at Mater Dei and returned three of them for touchdowns. Lewis also recorded 31 tackles, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery for the Seraphs. As a wide receiver, Lewis caught 21 passes for 411 yards and six touchdowns. Mater Dei (10-2) lost to Red Bank Catholic (10-0) in the NJSIAA Non-Public, Group 3 state championship.
The rankings: 247Sports – Three stars, No. 107 WR, No. 593 overall. Rivals – Three-star CB.
First impression: Lewis doesn’t look like a three-star recruit. His length and athleticism seem more fitting of a four-star recruit. The Irish found a steal in New Jersey.
Strengths: Lewis looks every bit of his listed 6-1, 180 pounds, which isn’t always the case for defensive back recruits. At that size, Lewis has been a playmaker on both sides of the ball. He’s a big-play receiver and a ball-hawking cornerback. Some of his interceptions were good fortune, but Lewis attacks the ball and doesn’t let quarterbacks get away with lazy throws. On defense, Lewis can play the ball as well as any of the receivers he’s covering. Lewis looks natural transitioning from a backpedal to running with a receiver down the field. Lewis may not be a technician at cornerback, but he has the tools to turn into one with the proper coaching.
Proof of prowess: (1:27) Lewis tracks down an interception on a pass that likely would have landed as an overthrow against most defensive backs. But Lewis shows his ability to track the ball extremely well by hauling in the pass as if he were the wide receiver. He manages to maintain control of the ball despite a game effort from the wide receiver trying to break it up.
(2:50) Lewis doesn’t get fooled much by the first move when covering a slot receiver. When he recognizes the inside route, he fights for inside position. The pass is thrown pretty quickly, yet Lewis still reacts and reaches out to make an impressive interception.
(3:48) This should be a walk-in touchdown for the wide receiver. The offense tries to use two wide receivers to set picks for the slot receiver to come underneath. But Lewis is too smart, too quick and too strong to allow the receiver to score. Lewis runs around his own teammate to track down the receiver and take him to the ground short of the goal line.
Competition level: Notre Dame’s no stranger to New Jersey football. The Irish are one of many programs trying to mine the talented state for prospects. In the 2019 class, Rivals gave 38 recruits at least a three-star rating in New Jersey. In the 2020 class, at least 40 recruits have three-star ratings with 12 of them receiving four stars.
One of those four-star recruits is Notre Dame tight end commit Kevin Bauman, who played against Lewis in the state championship game. Bauman’s Red Bank Catholic team won the game, but he only managed one catch for 56 yards. Meanwhile, Lewis intercepted a pass, forced a fumble and made two tackles.
Lewis caught the game-winning touchdown pass to beat DePaul Catholic, a team led by Penn State quarterback signee Ta’Quan Roberson, the previous week. Lewis intercepted Roberson once in that victory and dropped another potential interception.
Red Bank Catholic and DePaul Catholic finished the season ranked No. 3 and No. 20 in New Jersey by MaxPreps, respectively. The Seraphs, which play in the second-highest, non-public classification in New Jersey, also played against Connecticut’s No. 9 ranked team, Cheshire Academy.
Left to prove: Lewis doesn’t look slow on film, but the 4.59 seconds he clocked in the 40-yard dash at The Opening Regional in New Jersey certainly isn’t blazing. It may not be too big of a concern if Lewis plays faster than that time. But he’ll need to maintain or improve on his speed as his body continues to develop. If he doesn’t, Lewis could end up as a safety, which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. Lewis will need to continue to refine his game to become a shutdown cornerback. At this point, he seems likely to be a boundary cornerback for the Irish where he can be tested against bigger receivers. We’ll see if Notre Dame’s coaches made the right decision in pursuing Lewis as a cornerback rather than as a wide receiver. I think he’ll end up making them look smart.