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'I'm a Little Antonio Brown': Jourdan Lewis Could Be CFB's Next 3-Way Star

Ben AxelrodBig Ten Lead WriterAugust 8, 2016

Michigan CB Jourdan Lewis
Michigan CB Jourdan LewisAndrew Weber/Getty Images

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — At least publicly, Jourdan Lewis' journey to offense began two weeks ago with a modest request at Big Ten media days.

"I'm gonna put this out there right now," said Michigan's All-American cornerback. "I wanna play offense."

It was the type of quote from an enthusiastic player that could have amounted to a quick tweet, a short story and likely not much more. After all, Lewis has built his reputation as one of the nation's top players on the defensive side of the ball, and at his preferred position on offense, the Wolverines lay claim to two of the Big Ten's best receivers in Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh and an established two-way standout in the Swiss army knife that is Jabrill Peppers.

Yet as Lewis made his pitch, Jim Harbaugh was listening. And on Sunday, the night before Wolverines training camp began, the second-year Michigan head coach obliged, announcing his intentions of using his star cornerback on both sides of the ball.

"There's multiple ways that he can contribute offensively," Harbaugh said. "We know that he can as a returner, holdup person, gunner, kick and punt returner; he's got those capabilities. I'm not going too far out on a limb to say he can help us offensively as well."

Between his presence on defense, special teams and now, apparently, offense, Harbaugh deemed the Detroit native a "three-way" player, the same designation Peppers received a year ago when the primary safety received 26 touches on offense in addition to serving as the Wolverines' top punt returner.

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Though he hasn't taken a single offensive snap since arriving in Ann Arbor, Lewis is already setting his sights high when it comes to his potential production. If supreme confidence is a prerequisite for playing wide receiver, the first-team All-Big Ten corner has already got that part down pat, as evidenced by his unprovoked comparison to which receiver his game most resembles.

"I think I'm a little Antonio Brown," Lewis said, referencing the Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro who finished tied for a league-high 136 receptions and second in the NFL with 1,834 receiving yards in 2015. "I can run some routes. I think I'm a pretty good route-runner. Quickness."

Tony Ding/Associated Press

In reality, aside from their similar statures (Brown measures in at 5'10", 181 pounds, while Lewis is listed at 5'11", 186), it's hard to imagine Lewis' self-appointed comparison will be valid. For what it's worth, when told of Lewis' lofty praise for himself, Peppers couldn't help but laugh before likening his teammate to another similarly slight-of-height standout, Washington Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson.

But in the little we have already seen of Lewis with the ball in his hands, his ability as a playmaker has been apparent. As the Wolverines' primary kick returner last season, he finished second in the Big Ten with an average of 25.2 yards per return, in addition to returning one of his two interceptions 37 yards for a score.

Having spent the summer participating in seven-on-seven drills on both sides of the ball, Lewis insists he's developed a strong chemistry with John O'Korn, who enters training camp alongside Wilton Speight as one of two front-runners to fill Michigan's vacant starting quarterback slot. Already, Lewis' teammates have taken note of his two-way ability, vouching for his unrefined receiver skills.

"J.D. can definitely play on offense," said reigning Big Ten Tight End of the Year Jake Butt. "I've seen him run routes. For not playing receiver in college, he could probably step in and play receiver for us. He could probably start at a lot of schools."

Added Peppers: "I don't know why they haven't been letting Jourdan play both ways. Jourdan's one of the craziest athletes I've ever seen ... Jourdan could be just as efficient on offense as he is on defense."

As opposed to a year ago, when the unknown state of Michigan's roster entering Harbaugh's first season led to Peppers playing both ways, any aid from Lewis on offense would now come as a luxury more than it would out of necessity. Between Darboh, Butt and Chesson, Michigan possesses three of the Big Ten's top 15 leaders in receptions from a year ago, as well young emerging wideouts in Maurice Ways, Grant Perry, Drake Harris and of course, Peppers.

For a coach as innovative as Harbaugh, however, additional versatility only serves as another ally. Speaking at Big Ten media days, the former San Francisco 49ers head coach noted all the possible positions Peppers could play—and, perhaps more importantly, the mind games they can play on opposing teams.

"You'd like your opponent to think he could be at any of those positions," Harbaugh said of Peppers.

To a lesser degree, the same could now be said about Lewis.

Oct 10, 2015; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines cornerback Jourdan Lewis (26) scores a touchdown on an interception in the second quarter against the Northwestern Wildcats at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Just how much, if at all, the Wolverines will wind up using Lewis on offense remains to be seen. But for now, the Michigan senior is excited for his new opportunity, which takes him back to his days as a two-way standout at Cass Technical High School in Detroit.

"I did it in high school," Lewis said. "The competition level would kind of be different, but being tired-wise and stuff like that, fatigue-wise, we did it our whole career in high school. It wouldn't be anything too strange ... Some people say that I'm better on offense than I am on defense."

And as for his own lofty Antonio Brown comparison?

"He's pretty good," Lewis started off.

Pretty good?

"He's great. He works at it. I intend to do the same."

    

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod.

Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. Recruiting and class ratings courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings.

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