ASU Football's Future: Ronald Lewis looking to join No Fly Zone

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By Brad Denny By Brad Denny

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Since Todd Graham has been in Tempe, his Sun Devil defense has themselves on their No Fly Zone.

A look at the numbers shows that the aggressive and ballhawking Arizona State scheme has been among the nation's best at disrupting opposing offenses.

Over the 2012-2014 seasons—Graham's three years at the helm—ASU ranked second in the FBS in both turnover margin (+0.88 per game) and interceptions (1.4 per game). During that span, ASU has had eight different defensive backs take home 10 All-Pac-12 honors, including three first-team selections over the last two seasons.

The secondary has clearly been a primary reason for ASU's success, but in a pass-happy conference like the Pac-12, that group is going to be staunchly tested every week. Having several capable players on the backend is essential.

The 2015 Sun Devils have the luxury of having both of last year's starting cornerbacks—seniors Lloyd Carrington and Kweishi Brown—return. However, the team is looking for the next generation of stars at the position, and ASU thinks they may have one in a player who spent his first two years in Tempe catching passes rather than defending them.

Ronald Lewis came to ASU as a three-star wide receiver prospect from Louisiana. A speedy, quick, and versatile player, Lewis redshirted his first year before seeing action in 11 games last season, primarily on special teams. On the year, Lewis caught two passes for 12 yards, rushed twice for seven more, and added one tackle.

"It was a great experience getting on the field," Lewis said of 2014. "I had the opportunity to show my skills and what I can do on the field and how I can contribute to the team."

Lewis' playing time over his first two years has been limited, but that has taught him the value of hard work.

"Nothing is given to you. Keep on working hard, and never settle for what you have," said Lewis. "Keep striving for greatness, get better every day, and come out with a great attitude."

Towards the end of last season, the coaching staff moved Lewis to cornerback where his combination of size (5-foot-11, 185 pounds), quickness, and ball skills seemed to be a perfect fit. 

Lewis was initially hesitant about switching to a spot that he had only played sparingly in high school. However, he quickly warmed up to it, in part due to Graham's vision of Lewis as an All-Pac-12 caliber player.

"At first there was an 'if' about it, but now I'm embracing it and believing what Coach has for me," said Lewis. "I'm trusting in what he sees in me at cornerback. I just keep coming to get better and get better at the transition from receiver to cornerback. I keep watching film to get better. I buy into what he says of me as a great cornerback and playing in the league as a cornerback."

It's that relationship with Graham that has keyed the high expectations the team has for Lewis at cornerback. In addition to his head coaching responsibilities, Graham took a very active role with the team's cornerbacks last season.

"It's a great experience being coached by the head coach at your own position," said Lewis. "He pushes you every day, he strives for greatness, and he motivates you every day to get better."

Graham's tutelage of Lewis has instilled confidence in the redshirt sophomore that he can meet his coach's lofty expectations.

"I believe that I can be a great cornerback, and I believe that I can improve over the years under Coach Graham. I can actually go to the league playing cornerback more than playing receiver."

Also helping the transition is Lewis' experience at wide receiver, which he believes give him a mental edge.

"From previously being a receiver, I know what a receiver is going to do and when he is going to do it," Lewis said. "It's given me the opportunity to know what a receiver is going to do when I go up against him, based on his releases and moves."

The learning process is still ongoing, but the team's veteran corners have been helping bring Lewis and the other young players along.

"They have been telling me to come every day with a positive attitude, and to bring confidence to the cornerback side," Lewis said. "Keep working out and get better, and pay attention to what we're doing. I embrace the movement of the players."

Over the offseason, Lewis has been working diligently on the fundamentals and intricacies of the position in preparation for spring practices, which begin on March 16.

Carrington and Brown appear entrenched as the starters this year, but the competition behind them will be fierce. Senior Solomon Means returns, and Armand Perry and Chad Adams each saw extensive action last year as true freshmen. In the fall, highly touted newcomers Scrappy Norman and Kareem Orr will be added to the mix. 

There will be no shortage of quality competition at cornerback, but Lewis aims to carry on the #NoFLyZone tradition in 2015.

"Get in the rotation of the defense and to get on the field," Lewis said of his immediate goals. "Get playing time, and do my best this year to contribute to the team."