Kent State coach Sean Lewis to Colorado as OC, sources say

The on-field identity of Deion Sanders’ Colorado program took shape today, as sources tell ESPN that the Buffaloes are hiring Kent State head coach Sean Lewis as the team’s offensive coordinator.

As Kent State’s head coach and playcaller, Lewis developed a distinctive identity – whiplash, quick snaps and wide-open attacks. His offense is a descendant of the old-school Baylor offense that helped make devastating pace fashionable in college football more than a decade ago.

This year, Kent State finished with the fastest offense in Group 5 and the fourth-fastest offense in college football. According to research from ESPN Stats & Information, it took an average of 30.1 seconds between real-time snaps.

Sources told ESPN that one of the appeals of Lewis, who worked in Colorado, was that the breakneck pace combined with the height at Boulder would devastate opposing defenses.

Lewis’ pacing led to one of the best football runs in generations at Kent State. His success there belies his record (24-31) as he won the program’s first-ever bowl game and reached the MAC title game last year. This was only the second MAC title game in school history.

Lewis’ offenses in Kent finished in the top five for total offenses in both 2021 and 2020. In 2020, the Golden Flashes led the nation in scoring (49.8 points per game) as Kent State played an all-MAC schedule in the COVID-19-abridged season. It’s not just an open passing game either, as Kent was the No. 3 fast offense nationally last season.

Sanders proved to be a productive recruiter at Jackson State; Last year’s ESPN 300 No. 2 Travis Hunter chose Jackson State over Georgia and Florida State. If Sanders can draw elite athletes to Boulder, Lewis’ system should be able to single them out.

“It makes sense,” said a MAC coach, facing Lewis. “They will be able to get players and play in a wide-open pass attack. They will be explosive, athletic and attacking. I think whenever you’re dealing with altitude, no matter what system you’re using, it’s something you think it jibes a bit with the overtly attacking Pac-12 offenses. They should be able to attract players who want to play offensively in this type of system.

Lewis played in Wisconsin under offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, an unusual incubator for hypertempo offensive, tight end and quarterback. He started early in his coaching career in eastern Illinois with former Baylor assistant Dino Babers and passed the high-octane offense to Lewis. Lewis was also on the team during Jimmy Garoppolo’s tenure at Eastern Illinois.

From there, Lewis followed Babers to Bowling Green in the MAC and Syracuse in the ACC, rose to offensive coordinator and dove into the tempo offense.

Lewis was the country’s youngest head coach when he landed the job at Kent in December 2017 aged 31. His five-season success with Kent was so appreciated by the administration there that a source told ESPN they plan to maintain a similar level. Tempo style as it’s fun to watch, fan friendly and easy to recruit.

Kent State officials are grateful for the momentum Lewis has created and plan to take advantage of the $750,000 buyout cost that Colorado will pay to hire Lewis to further supplement the program. Kent State has long been one of the MAC’s most challenging assignments, as Lewis’ two bowl appearances there equaled the total in the history of a program that began in 1962.

Forging an identity of his own has been central to Lewis’ tenure, and it’s easy to see why it would be appealing in a program where Sanders promises to attract a wide array of five-star recruits and elite ability players.

“They’re going to play with tempo and tempo, trying to spread the field all 53 and a third,” said another MAC coach. “It’s a dynamic system if they can recruit a quarterback who can run it.” Kent State coach Sean Lewis to Colorado as OC, sources say

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