A returning anchor for TCU's defense is hanging up the cleats and shoulder pads.
Matt Jennings of Rivals.com reported on Tuesday that senior defensive tackle Jon Lewis had left the team simply because he was done playing football.
Why Lewis is reportedly walking away from football is unknown, but reasons hardly seem important now.
It's a tough blow for the Horned Frogs defense, which was a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing 4-8 season in 2013. Lewis started the final five games last season, recording a team-best 11 tackles for loss. His 4.5 sacks were second on the team.
Lewis also started four games as a sophomore in 2012 and played in all 38 games in his collegiate career.
Other than the departures of Lewis and defensive end Jon Koontz, TCU's D-line will return mostly intact next year. That doesn't make Lewis' loss any less substantial, however. Only defensive tackle Chucky Hunter had more tackles along the D-line (43) than Lewis (39) in '13.
The Frogs ranked No. 13 nationally last season with 98 tackles for loss. Lewis and Koontz combined for 20 percent of those.
Stopping the run and getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks with a defensive front seven (in TCU's case, a defensive front six) is a simple recipe for success, but not every team does it well. TCU did.
The Frogs also had an excellent secondary last season, probably the best in the Big 12. Filled with talented players like All-American cornerback Jason Verrett, the secondary actually made the defensive line look better.
“We lead the league in sacks," head coach Gary Patterson said last October (via The Dallas Morning News), "and I’d probably tell you at least 50 percent of them have been coverage sacks.”
But the opposite is true, too.
Consider the following quote from Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, who writes periodically for Sports Illustrated's Monday Morning Quarterback with Peter King. Here's what Sherman had to say last month about being, in his mind, the best corner in the NFL:
When I say I’m the best cornerback in football, it’s with a caveat: There isn’t a great defensive backfield in the NFL that doesn’t have a great front seven. Everything begins with pressure up front, and that’s what we get from our pass-rushers every Sunday.
The same logic can be applied to every level of football. Next year, two members of TCU's secondary will be gone: Verrett and safety Elisha Olabode. The Frogs should still be good at that level of the defense, but having a stout D-line will only help.
Now, two of the major statistical contributors along that line from a year ago are gone.
Defensive tackle Davion Pierson, who started the first seven games last year, is the early favorite to replace Lewis. Pierson has plenty of experience, so there shouldn't much of a dropoff from a production standpoint.
Still, Lewis was a player who found himself in the backfield a lot. He's going to be missed, there's no doubt about that.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com.
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