Notre Dame has a vacancy at offensive coordinator after Tommy Rees took the same position on Nick Saban's Alabama staff in early February. Where will Marcus Freeman and Notre Dame turn for their new offensive coordinator?
Here at Fighting Irish Wire we'll be giving you a bio and summary of the career of some of the names that emerge as candidates. We're also making an effort for some guest contributors who have either followed or covered each potential candidate's coaching careers.
In the second edition we will take a quick look at Colorado offensive coordinator Sean Lewis and his football career. Word is Notre Dame is extremely interested in Lewis as a candidate so let's take a look at what the Irish are intrigued by.
Most Recent Position
One of the first moves Deion Sanders (aka Coach Prime) made when he was hired as Colorado's head coach was hire Lewis as his offensive coordinator. Lewis is obviously yet to coach an actual game with the Buffaloes but was a highly regarded hire by Sanders as he gave up a head coaching position to take it.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
Lewis grew up just outside Chicago in Oak Lawn and attended Richards High School. Notre Dame has obviously always recruited the Chicago area but appears to be putting a little more emphasis on it of late. If Lewis can help in those efforts it'd only bolster his case if he's indeed interested in bolting Boulder.
Lewis actually began his coaching career as the offensive coordinator for three years at Richards after playing collegiately in the Big Ten.
Despite being a star high school athlete, Smith was once intercepted at a summer 7-on-7 session by yours truly.
Former Wisconsin Quarterback/Tight End
September 16, 2006; Madison, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers head coach Bret Bielema congratulates tight end (82) Sean Lewis and tight end (43) Andy Crooks after the Badgers scored a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the San Diego State Aztecs at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Photo By Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports Copyright (c) 2006 Jeff Hanisch
A high school quarterback, Lewis played tight end collegiately for Wisconsin, earning playing time in 2006 and 2007. His numbers didn't exactly fill up the stat-sheet, not that that's important, as he recorded one reception for seven yards and returned one kickoff for one yard with the Badgers.
First Work Collegiately
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After spending three years as offensive coordinator at his high school, Lewis transitioned to the college ranks. That began in 2010 as he spent that season coaching tight ends at Nebraska-Omaha. In 2011 he served as a graduate assistant at Kent State which happened to be the staff current Notre Dame associate athletic director [autotag]Ron Powlus[/autotag] was quarterbacks coach on.
Super Bowl Quarterback Connection at Eastern Illinois
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
After spending 2011 at Kent State, Lewis took a job at Eastern Illinois to coach tight ends and inside receivers. In his two seasons there, Eastern Illinois reached the FCS playoffs both years, including a trip to the quarterfinals in 2013 when they were led by quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
Follows Babers to Bowling Green
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Lewis, who worked under Dino Babers for those two years at Eastern Illinois, followed the head coach to Bowling Green in 2014. He spent 2014 coaching the wide receivers and 2015 as the co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Some accomplishments from his two years at Bowling Green:
2014 MAC East champions, Camellia Bowl champions
2015 - Bowling Green ranked fourth nationally in total offense and sixth in scoring offense. Quarterback Matt Johnson threw for the second most passing yards and touchdowns nationally. Receiver Roger Lewis hauled in 1,544 yards, the second most nationally, and 16 touchdown receptions (third).
Again with Babers, this time to Syracuse
Oct 13, 2017; Syracuse, NY, USA; Syracuse Orange players and cheerleaders celebrate their victory over the Clemson Tigers at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
If you have a formula that works then why break away from it? That's clearly what Babers found with Lewis and Syracuse came calling in 2016, Lewis again went along. The impact of both with the Orange was immediate:
2016 - Orange offense set program record for passing yards in a season with 3,855. Their 5,290 yards of total offense were the second most in program history.
2017 - Syracuse scored 40 or more points in three games. They also upset defending national champion Clemson, 27-24. The Orange offense was again lights out, averaging 456.3 yards and 24.4 first downs per game.
Kent State Head Coach
Dec 20, 2019; Frisco, TX, USA; Kent State Golden Flashes head coach Sean Lewis has Gatorade dunked on him after the game against the Utah State Aggies during the Frisco Bowl at Toyota Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Following the 2017 season, Lewis accepted the head coach position at Kent State. At the time of his hire he was the youngest FBS head coach at just 31 years old. During his time at Kent State the numbers can be a bit misleading.
For instance, you may see he went 24-31 in five seasons and wonder what the big deal about Lewis may be. This was on the heels of a five-year stretch Kent State went just 14-45. Furthermore, after a 2-10 debut campaign, Lewis and Kent State went 22-21 his final four seasons and won their first bowl game in program history.
Sean Lewis shakes hands with a veteran Big Ten coach that doesn't run an offense nearly the same way as the up-and-comer. (USA TODAY SPORTS - 2021)
According to a Football Scoop report, Lewis is a top candidate for Notre Dame. When you look at what it takes to win big at the FBS level these days you need a good defense but you need an offense that can not only score, but score quickly. Obviously, what you've read to this point you see that Lewis has coached a bunch of teams that know how to put points on the board.
What makes him most intriguing to me is the obvious uptick in pace Notre Dame's offense would almost be guaranteed to have. Here is how the Irish have compared to Kent State in terms of plays run per game during the five years Lewis was their head coach.
2022: Kent State 75.1 plays (24th nationally), Notre Dame 68.5 (89th)
2021: Kent State 77.6 (13th), Notre Dame 72.1 (43rd)
2020: Kent State 82.8 (2nd), Notre Dame 74.3 (38th)
2019: Kent State 73.3 (41st), Notre Dame 69.5 (78th)
2018: Kent State 79.4 (8th), Notre Dame 75.1 (38th)
Story originally appeared on Fighting Irish Wire