The Great Mississippi Debate (part 3): Jameon Lewis vs. Laquon Treadwell
The Great Mississippi Debate is a series of player comparisons between Ole Miss and Mississippi State aimed to determine which program from the Magnolia state is best entering the 2014 season.
Read previous installments in the series here:
This third installment features a comparison of two star wide receivers – Ole Miss sophomore Laquon Treadwell and Mississippi State senior Jameon Lewis.
Ole Miss wideout Laquon Treadwell made his name known throughout the SEC as a freshman in 2013. The Rebels’ star earned SEC Freshman of the Year honors from the league’s coaches after catching 72 passes for 608 yards and five touchdowns (all Ole Miss freshman records), and returns to Oxford as the team’s top receiver following the departure of Donte Moncrief to the NFL.
In Starkville, Jameon Lewis also enjoyed a breakout season in 2013, flourishing as a do-everything gadget player in the Bulldogs’ offense. After catching just 17 passes in his first two seasons combined, Lewis led Mississippi State with 64 catches for 923 yards and five touchdowns as a junior last season.
He also rushed the ball 13 times for 117 yards and three touchdowns, returned 50 kickoffs, 23 punts, and even completed 3-of-3 passes for 84 yards and three touchdowns (for those wondering, Lewis’ passing numbers earned him a quarterback rating of 665.2 last season).
The two players are different in every way, except, of course, in their production on the field. Treadwell is a big, strong, physical receiver at 6-foot-2 and 229 pounds; Lewis is a smaller, shiftier player at 5-foot-9 and 183 pounds.
Both will be their team’s top receiver in 2014. But who will have the better season? Let’s break it all down:
Strengths: Size, physicality, durability, field vision
Treadwell was rarely a threat down the field last season, averaging less than nine yards per reception despite catching 13 more passes than any other player on the team. He filled his role as the complement to Moncrief perfectly, wearing down defenders while Moncrief stretched the field for Bo Wallace and the offense.
Treadwell did most of his work on short or intermediate routes last season, using his body to shield defenders and create a target for Wallace to throw the ball. He excelled at breaking tackles and adding yards after the catch, and was a valuable blocker on the outside when called upon.
He became a focal point in the Rebels’ screen pass game by year’s end, which hurt his yards-per-catch average but forced defenders to respect another element in the offense, especially as Treadwell earned his reputation as being both difficult to tackle and difficult to catch in the open field.
As he enters 2014, Treadwell must find a niche in the Rebels’ offense more than 10 yards down the field. With Moncrief no longer in the picture Treadwell can expect to be the focus of attention with most SEC defensive coordinators, meaning he is likely to face regular double-teams and won’t be as effective on screen passes or short crossing patterns. If he was able to sharpen his route-running in the offseason, he should be able to extend his game further down the field, making him an even deadlier weapon in the Ole Miss offense.
Strengths: Speed, elusiveness, versatility
Weaknesses: Jump balls, catching balls in traffic
Lewis caught the SEC by surprise as one of the conference’s most dynamic play-makers in 2013, but the Bulldogs’ jack-of-all-trades won’t surprise anyone in 2014. Now seen as one of the SEC’s premier athletes, Lewis will face the challenge of backing up his breakout 2013 campaign with an even more impressive senior season this fall.
The Tylertown, Miss. native proved he can do anything on a football field, from catching passes to returning kicks and even throwing for touchdowns. He remains the best gadget player in the conference, maybe the nation, and combined with the versatility of quarterback Dak Prescott he should be able to burn opposing teams in plenty of different ways this season. His speed in the open field is second-to-none, and his small body adds an element of elusiveness few SEC defenders can compete with.
Where Lewis must improve in 2014 is as an every-down receiver. No one questions his ability to make defenders miss on a screen pass or a quick slant, but what about on intermediate and deep routes? If Lewis is to be the Bulldogs’ No. 1 receiver he will need to present a pass-catching threat on every play in any situation. This means executing plays like catching a 15-yard crossing pattern in traffic on 3rd & 10, which Lewis did very little of last season.
A top-flight wide receiver must be more than just a gadget player, even one as deadly as Lewis was a year ago. Whether Lewis can take that next step will determine his success in MSU’s offense in 2014.
Treadwell possesses the body and skill set of a true No. 1 receiver in the SEC, and with a year under his belt to acclimate himself to the speed of the SEC he should be even more dangerous this fall.
Lewis is capable of being the conference’s most exciting player in 2014, but he must prove that last year was not a fluke after ineffective freshman and sophomore seasons in 2011-12. With Prescott still at the helm of the offense Lewis’ versatility should remain a weapon this season. But No. 1 receivers must be more than just gadget players, and if Lewis cannot achieve success as a more traditional receiver this season it will be tough to argue he is superior to Treadwell.