- Sam Khan Jr., ESPN Staff Writer
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Kevin Sumlin knows the look.
When the temperature is high and he's yelling at Texas A&M's senior center, Patrick Lewis, to push the tempo of the Aggies' new Air Raid-style offense at practice, it's not unusual for Lewis to give Sumlin a familiar glance.
"I think he's tired of me yelling at him, 'Hurry up!'" Sumlin said. "At this time of year, it's hot out there and it's hotter for a 312-pound guy than it is for me just standing back there yelling at him all the time. A couple times he's given me a look like, 'Shut up.'"
But Lewis understands the reason for the hollering. One of the signatures of Sumlin's and offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury's offense, which ranked No. 1 nationally at Houston last year, generating an average of 599 yards per game, is a breakneck pace that keeps opposing defenses off balance.
While the quarterback is a huge focal point of the offense, it can't function at the tempo Sumlin and Kingsbury want unless the center allows it.
"We can't do anything until the center gets to the ball," Sumlin said. "[If] we're all running to the ball and we have no center there, it makes no sense. From that standpoint, I know it sounds very simple, but I explained that to Patrick early 'We're waiting on you,' and that bugged him a little bit."Cal Sport Media
Patrick Lewis, a captain for Texas A&M this season, had to adjust to the Aggies' new offensive system.
As the Aggies have progressed through fall training camp and prepare for their season opener on Thursday against Louisiana Tech, Lewis has improved in that area. The coaches want to see him beat the referee to the spot of the ball after a play and the 6-foot-2 Lewis is getting better at it.
"I'm getting real close," Lewis said with a laugh. "[Sumlin] still pushes me every day to make it go a little faster, and we go pretty fast, even with him trying to push me to go faster. But I'm getting to it, I'm beating the ref to the ball, getting set and making my points before the ref even blows the whistle, so I think I'm making a lot of progress as far as pushing this offense and getting it to the tempo to that coach Kingsbury and coach Sumlin want it to be."
Kingsbury said he has been pleased with what he has seen from Lewis during the transition to the new offense.
"He's done a good job," Kingsbury said. "As he goes, we go. He's getting the ball snapped and taken a leadership role in the offense. It's a completely different change than he's used to but he's adjusted."
And it's not just Lewis' speed that is important. When he gets to the spot of the ball, he is responsible for pointing the other offensive linemen and the running backs and making some protection calls.
Now that he has gone through an entire spring and fall training camp, Lewis said there is improvement in that area also.
"Over the course of camp we made a major progression as an offense, as an offensive line and myself, I became real familiar with the offense," Lewis said. "I'm able to make points just off of certain calls. Certain calls the running back makes and certain calls the quarterback makes. It's getting real easy right now.
"I'm still working at it every day, watching film, making sure I'm putting the running backs in the right place to block the outside defenders coming off the edge and making the offensive line knows who we're blocking as well, so it's been a real smooth transition for us."
Lewis has apparently handled it well enough that his teammates felt it appropriate to vote him one of the team's captains, a sign that Lewis is a true leader for the Aggies this fall.
"He's had to up his game one level, not performance-wise but conditioning-wise because he's got to get there so fast," senior receiver Ryan Swope said. "He's done a great job this summer of working hard and working on his speed. The tempo we move at is critical and he's done a great job of adjusting to that."
Lewis is honored to be one of the team's four captains.
"I really didn't think I was going to get that much high praise from the team," Lewis said. "But I'm glad I did and I'm honored that they chose me to be one of the captains. I plan on not letting them down and stepping into that leadership role and fulfilling it, like they want me to."
2dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
3dEdward Aschoff and Greg Ostendorf