Michigan State safety Isaiah Lewis (9) had two interceptions and eight pass breakups in 2013. (Dale G. Young / Detroit News)
Mobile, Ala. — Safety Isaiah Lewis believes playing for Rose Bowl champion Michigan State helped prepare him for the NFL.
In order to make it at the next level, however, Lewis has to prove he can cover NFL wide receivers.
Lewis had a chance to show his skills this week during Senior Bowl practice, and a big performance in today’s game wouldn’t hurt.
“We were coached tough,” he said of Mark Dantonio and his assistants. “They weren’t soft on us up there, so any hard coaching we get up there in the NFL will be the same thing for us. We know we need to get on our stuff.”
Lewis was the only Michigan State player at the Senior Bowl and said he was hoping to represent his school well. Cornerback Darqueze Dennard backed out before the event, as many likely first-round picks do.
While Dennard is the apple of many NFL scouts’ eyes, Lewis believes all the Spartans have a good shot at at the NFL.
ESPN ranks Lewis (5-foot-10, 205 pounds) the No. 10 safety in the draft, and outside linebacker Denicos Allen and inside linebacker Max Bullough are among players who likely will be drafted.
“It helps because (NFL teams) trust Mark Dantonio and his program,” NFL Network analyst Charles Davis said. “They trust the work ethic, they trust the guy understands what it takes to be a pro and what it’s going be like and what is going to be required of you.”
Davis also spoke highly of Lewis and explained why coverage skills are so important in today’s pass-happy NFL.
“Absolute hammer,” he said. “He’s got to prove he can cover people, the same thing all the safeties have to prove.
“What’s happening now is the Tyrann Mathieu (Cardinals) effect is coming into play. Cornerbacks are being swung back to safety because (teams) don’t feel that the need is so great in the run game anymore.”
For Wisconsin tight end Jacob Pedersen, the Upper Peninsula is his home and a getaway.
“I love fishing and hunting, anything to do with that kind of stuff,” he said. “For me, it’s kind of a paradise away from the craziness of football.”
Pedersen grew up in Menominee, which borders northeast Wisconsin. And in that town, most of Pedersen’s recruiting came from Mid-American Conference teams.
Luckily, Menominee High played a couple of Wisconsin teams each year, and in Pedersen’s senior season, he made an impression on an opposing coach, who spoke highly of him to the Badgers.
Pedersen accepted an offer from Wisconsin and finished his career with 104 catches for 1,394 yards and 17 touchdowns.
“He’s a guy that I think is a good route runner as a tight end,” Davis said. “Obviously, he’s got to know how to block, because you can’t play at Wisconsin without knowing how to block.”
And this week Pedersen (6-3, 242) was trying to impress NFL teams at the Senior Bowl, meaning his rise from the U.P. to the pros is nearly complete.
“A lot of teams are looking at me more for an H-back type role,” he said. “So I’ve just got to be able to go up the seam, I’ve got to be able to go up and make plays, be physical with safeties and just keep working on that.”
Michigan State receiver Bennie Fowler is a last-minute addition to the game. He is replacing Northwestern’s Kain Colter (ankle). Also, Wisconsin’s Jared Abbrederis (unspecified) missed practice Thursday.
... Keep an eye on Saginaw Valley State wide receiver Jeff Janis (6-2¼, 212). He should play extra for the North with Colterand Abbrederis out. Janis may also return kicks.
… Baylor safety Ahmad Dixon (5-11½, 205) said he interviewed with the Lions this week.