No. 7 UW at CU Buffs

When: 8 p.m., Saturday

Where: Folsom Field

TV: FS1

Radio: 94.1 FM/850 AM

Among the pleasant surprises so far for the Colorado defense has been the play of inside linebacker Drew Lewis.

Just don't bother regaling Lewis with the numbers that have made him the Buffaloes' leading tackler so far. He already has moved on to the next challenge.

In this case, that next challenge is one both daunting and personal for Lewis, who through three games has capably filled the vacancy left by one of 2016's standout defenders, Kenneth Olugbode. When the Buffs hit Folsom Field Saturday night to take on No. 7 Washington in a Pac-12 Conference opener that doubles as a rematch of last year's league title game, Lewis, a native of Sammamish, Wash., who spent one season at UW, will do so against a number of familiar faces.

"I grew up 20 minutes outside Seattle, so I looked at (UW) a lot," Lewis said. "But right now I'm thinking Colorado. I don't have any extra feelings toward them. I didn't go to as many (games) as you might think. I wasn't a die-hard fan or anything like that."

Lewis signed with the Huskies out of high school and spent a redshirt season with the program in 2014. He was dismissed from the team after that season and enrolled at Coffeyville Community College, a junior college in Coffeyville, Kan. He posted five tackles for loss and three quarterback sacks in his lone season at Coffeyville, and upon a recommendation from coach Aaron Flores while the Buffs were recruiting another player there, receiver Juwann Winfree, head coach Mike MacIntyre and his staff took a closer look at Lewis.


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He arrived in Boulder last year and served a backup role during a memorable 10-4 season, logging 29 of his 46 snaps during a blowout win against Idaho State. Yet for a defense that experienced a significant turnover with the loss of eight starters, Lewis so far has been a revelation. He has led the Buffs in tackles during all three games, and he is among CU's leaders in third-down stops and quarterback pressures.

"He's played hard, he's rushed the passer well, he's played physical for us," said first-year defensive coordinator DJ Eliot. "We needed him to step up, and for the most part he has. He's very athletic. He's fast. He's physical, strong. Those are things that apply to being a good pass rusher."

Lewis' swift ascension perhaps is not a complete surprise given the rich football background of his family. His brother, Troy, was in CU's roster last year, and their father Will enjoyed professional stints in the NFL as well as the USFL and Canada. Another brother, Ryan, played at Pitt, as did his Riddick cousins, one of whom is former NFL player and ESPN analyst Louis Riddick.

With that family pedigree in his background, Lewis was confident his work during this past offseason would lead to results once he stepped into an expanded role this season.

"I've been locked in every single game," Lewis said. "I'm trying to (make) the biggest contribution that can to this team. I'm trying to be selfless as well. People say that I've got a lot of tackles but I'm not looking at the stat book after games. I'm just trying to do what I can to help the team. If I screw up I'm going to fix it."

Pat Rooney: rooneyp@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/prooney07