Rutgers Football continues to add players through recruiting, particularly on the defensive line. Aaron Lewis Jr., an early enrollee at Michigan who was in Ann Arbor less than a full semester is transferring closer to his New Jersey home in Williamstown. He announced the move to Rutgers on Monday afternoon.
After deep discussions with my family, I’ve decided it’s best for me to continue my academic and athletic career at Rutgers University where I will be closer to home. @RUCoachFran @CoachPanagos @GregSchiano pic.twitter.com/RMp1tVAC61— aaron.lewis84 (@aaron_lewis71) July 20, 2020
A former high 3-star recruit in the 2020 class, Lewis was the 14th best New Jersey high school player per 247 composite and 17th best strong-side defensive end nationally in the 2020 class. 247 itself had him 7th and 10th respectively, as well as rated as a 4-star prospect.
By all accounts, Lewis is the prototypical body type for the modern defensive end. Lewis entered the transfer portal on July 15, due to “family health reasons” per 247 which NJ Advance Media quoted him as referring to his mother in an interview earlier in the week.
If granted a hardship waiver, Lewis would be immediately eligible. If not, he will need to sit out the 2020 season and would have four years left to play. Let’s look at Rutgers is adding to the roster with Lewis.
Position: DE (6’5”, 235 lbs.)
Previous stop: Michigan
High School: Williamstown
Hometown: Williamstown, NJ
Most notable offers (High School): 20+ Power Five schools including Ohio State and Baylor
In his second tenure in Piscataway, Head Coach Schiano has added four defensive linemen via transfer since December: Malik Barrow (UCF), Michael Dwumfour (Michigan), Ireland Burke (Boston College), and Mayan Ahanotu (Minnesota) to stockpile players for defensive line coach Jim Panagos. However even with all the additions, it was impossible to turn down a former top 10 player in the state who simply wanted to be closer to his family during a global pandemic.
Defensive end is in the mid to upper level of the Scarlet Knights’ many needs as a program. Ideally Lewis will play in 2020, but even if he has to sit out a year, it will be worth the wait. Lewis has the body type teams looks for (basically every P5 team east of the Mississippi River offered him) and displayed elite athleticism at the high school level at every position on the defensive line. He also was a nasty blocker on the offensive side of the ball.
Lewis is the type of player who looks like he really wants to be on the field and around the ball at all times. He has tremendous get off the snap, lateral quickness in pursuit, and strength to simply shove backs aside. When someone gets a hand on him, he simply keeps his feet moving and wills his way to the ball. At worst if he can’t maintain the quickness at a higher playing weight, he could become an effective interior lineman anyway or play defensive end at his high school size. There is also a chance that he could ultimately play offensive line under certain circumstances, but that’s not where he will likely end up. Still, his versatility is a plus.
Lewis is not a finished product as he relies heavily on a devastating swim move. How quickly he adds to that arsenal will determine how quickly he can be used as a situational pass rusher early in his career. At the high school level, he could get away with a very high pad level because he is so strong with his shoulders and quick with his feet. Even if he can play lower to the ground, it may take some reps to get used to it at game speed. He has a great motor, but the Big Ten trenches can take a toll on players so it will be interesting to see if he can keep the same energy for a whole game or is better suited for regular rotations. These are all relatively minor criticisms because the high end potential is absolutely there.
Overall, this is a great pickup. Another top New Jersey player returns home with Power Five pedigree and brings with him the size/athleticism combination Rutgers needs to improve its pass rush. Lewis has position and scheme versatility, but it may be his motor and energy that are an even bigger boon to the Rutgers defense as the program rebuilds.
You can watch sone of Lewis’s High School highlights below: