Keeping up with Inside NU’s 2022 football season player ranking series, which uses a composite ranking system created by polling our own writers, we continue to dive into each Wildcat that made our top 10. Today we’ll take a look at the season of senior Jeremiah Lewis, our No. 8 player of 2022.
Ryan Cole (unranked)
Stats: 70 total tackles, 48 solo, four passes defended, zero interceptions
Senior defensive back Jeremiah Lewis transferred to Northwestern this fall after spending his first four college seasons at Duke. The Lewisville, Texas native played in 38 games for the Blue Devils, racking up 84 tackles and four picks, one of which came against Northwestern in 2021. Those stats don’t blow you out of the water, and Lewis is only 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds. But the ‘Cats had recruited Lewis in 2018 when he was a three-star prospect playing for Prestonwood Christian Academy and knew they were getting a savvy, consistent defender.
As an extra bonus, they hoped Lewis’ knowledge of the Blue Devil scheme would help end a three-game losing streak against Duke. Unfortunately, the ‘Cats came up one Evan Hull fumble short and will head into next year’s matchup having lost four in a row.
However, Lewis lived up to expectations and was a steady piece for the Wildcat defense throughout this miserable season. Lewis got off to a hot start, tallying six tackles and a pass breakup against Nebraska across the pond in Ireland. He then had seven tackles against his former team, and also put up big numbers in Week Three in the infamous Southern Illinois debacle with eight tackles and a blocked kick.
Lewis would go on to finish the season with the third most tackles on the roster at 70. He didn’t have any interceptions (he did have one go right through his hands against Penn State), but he was second on the team in passes defended (four) behind Cam Mitchell.
The performance of the Northwestern secondary this season is tricky to evaluate. Its task was difficult; there wasn’t much pressure on opposing quarterbacks and Lewis and Co. were forced to lock down receivers for extended periods of time. That is not a recipe for defensive success. However, all things considered, even though it was missing A.J. Hampton for a long period of time, the secondary was somewhere between decent and good this season.
Most of the bright spots on Jim O’Neil’s defense were in the secondary, and Lewis was undeniably one of them. The greatest ability is availability, and Lewis was always available. He played in all 12 games for the ‘Cats this season and was consistently productive throughout.
Lewis has one more season of eligibility left because of COVID, and we haven’t heard anything yet about his plans. He seems like a primary candidate to transfer again after having a productive season for the 1-11 Wildcats. But, you never know, Evanston does have a certain charm.
If he stays, Lewis will be a key returning member for this Northwestern defense in 2023. With Hampton set to transfer and Mitchell headed to the NFL, the secondary is strapped for talent at the moment. Lewis could help stabilize it if he can resist joining the mass exodus from Evanston that’s taking place right now.
Lewis is far from a superstar-caliber player, but he’s an average starter for the ‘Cats, something that is lacking at a large majority of positions currently. This season, any average starter should make or at least be right outside the top ten. There simply were not that many of them. Retaining Lewis for next season is a big deal if Fitz and his new defensive coordinator want to field a respectable team.