Miles and Lewis Engaged in Battle for Leo Position
George Lewis and Ed Miles playfully attempted to get each other in a head lock as photographers clicked away at the recent Iowa football media day. The laughing and smiling made it tough to tell that the linebackers were locked in competition for the starting Leo position - something each player desperately desires. "It's friendly," Miles said of the race. "We help each other out. "For me, George has been sort of a mentor. He's a guy on the field that can help me with my mistakes. He's been here a lot longer than I have. And that's being a good teammate. You're in a competition, but you're helping each other out." Lewis enters 2004 as a fifth-year senior, while Miles is a sophomore after coming to Iowa two seasons ago as a Prop 48. They are competing to fill the position occupied by Grant Steen during the last three seasons. "I've been waiting patiently behind Grant Steen," Lewis said. "I've learned a lot from Grant Steen. And I'm ready to fill his shoes at the Leo linebacker." Lewis took a lot more reps with the first-team defense during Iowa's Kids Day practice, which was open to the public and media last Sunday. The Hawkeyes have scheduled another open scrimmage Saturday at 11am, when fans and journalists should get a better indication who is leading this race. "Well, I've been here for like five years," Lewis said. "I know the defense. It's like I'm coming right in and getting the job done because I've been here much longer than the guys behind me." Lewis and Miles are physically different. Miles is listed at 6-1, 222, but appears to be 6-0 at best. Iowa has Lewis at 6-2, 234, but he looks more like 6-3 or 6-4. LAST CHANCE Lewis came out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida's Dillard High with plenty of accolades. He was named second team all state as a senior after being on the third team as a junior. He was regarded as fourth best linebacker prospect in talent-rich Florida. Following a senior season at Dillard that saw him record 100 tackles and 10 QB sacks, Lewis played as a true freshman at Iowa, mainly on special teams. But he could never find a way to beat out Steen and mainly has played on coverage units. "We're similar, " Lewis said of comparisons to Steen. "I learned a lot from him. But I know that I can get better in my drops and my footwork and my hands." Lewis is reluctant to speak about his talents as a linebacker. "I like to hit," he said. "But there are more things that I can improve on. I wouldn't say that I have certain strengths. There's always room for improvement. "I see it as a business. I know it's all about taking care of business on the field; find the ball carrier and do your job." Lewis was unable to do his job when he suffered a season ending injury at the beginning of third year at Iowa. It cost him a chance to play in the Orange Bowl, which sits in the shadows of where he grew up. He was awarded a redshirt. "It's just like football," Lewis said. "You win some and you lose some. With knee surgery, I had good days and bad days. I think it was a learning process helping me to develop into a man." Lewis feels that he also has developed as a linebacker. He understands the Leo position, where communication with the defensive end and middle linebacker is crucial to success. "I get the D-end out, bring the D-end in," Lewis said. "As the Mike and Leo, we communicate a lot on the field. Not too much with the Will, but the Mike and the Leo communicate a lot." Speed should be an asset to Lewis, who ran a 4.6-second, 40-yard dash in high school. "I'm fast enough to catch a running back or the quarterback," he said. "I'm fast enough to catch anybody with the ball." WAITING GAME As a senior at Godby High in Tallahassee, Fla., Miles dreamed of playing as a true freshman in college. When he fell short of his wish, it proved difficult. "It's been tough," Miles said. "Coming in as prop and having to sit out one year, that was tough. But it did help me get more experience. Last year, being out there on the special teams was good for me." Miles recorded 15 tackles last season, and showed good speed and instinct on coverage teams. As a senior at Godby, he accounted for 131 tackles in earning a spot on the Florida Dream Team. He also rolled up six sacks and 15 tackles for loss. A chance to get some game time at linebacker is something Miles hopes to prove himself worthy of during this month's training camp. "I don't know how the coaches have it designed," Miles said. "I know that both of us are very talented. We'll see if it's going to be a rotation (at Leo). Hopefully, there will be a rotation." However it shakes out, Miles has time on his side. If he can graduate in four years, he'll be awarded another season of eligibility per Prop 48 rules. At the least, he'll have two more campaigns. And Miles has settled in socially and academically at Iowa. "It's a good place." he said. "All of the people around here are great. I'm doing well academically. I like what I have right now." Miles said that he has improved his focus and attention to detail since arriving here two years ago. He has become a system player as opposed to running free to make plays as a prep. "In high school, there are four or five plays that you run all of the time," Miles said. "Then, you come to college and you get this big play book. You've just got to take one thing at a time. You've got to study." Miles also excelled as a wrestler in high school, something common among a group of players at Iowa during recent years. He matched skills with Hawkeye freshman Kyle Williams this summer. "It wasn't like a real wrestling match," said a smiling Miles. "It wasn't official. It was who could get the takedown first. I tried a move that I really wouldn't try in a real match. I tried a move and he landed on top of me."