The Times West Virginian

Sports

April 18, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN: Lucas set to run with new role

MORGANTOWN — A few weeks back we portrayed Marquis Lucas’ journey to West Virginia University, a rather strange one from Miami where he had gone from a relatively normal family upbringing to losing their home and living for six months in a 2003 Chevy Suburban.

Considering that he is 6-4 and 312 pounds, a rather hefty offensive lineman, it made it close quarters in the Suburban. Sometimes his dad had managed to get enough money for a hotel room, but mostly they were in the truck, and he always found a way to get money.

Eventually things improved, right up until kidney troubles hit his father and he lost him, another turn in a rather strange road to somewhere.

Through it all, though, he learned to roll with the punches and make the best of what he’s got. When it gets worst, he reminds himself of a quotation:

“Man can live about 40 days without food, about three days without water, eight minutes without air but just one second without hope … and I have hope.”

He had to do some of that last year after he came to WVU following a flirtation with Rutgers, finding himself caught at left tackle, which was wrong place at the wrong time.

Quinton Spain, who will probably become one of the best offensive tackles ever at WVU, was the starter, and Nick Kindler was behind him, putting Lucas third string and spending most of his time on the scout team.

“Having that respect for Quinton and Nick, they are veteran guys and being better than me, I really couldn’t do anything about it,” he said.

Considering that Spain was a freshman, the future did not look good, but this year the offensive line had to be reconstructed, and Lucas found himself moved to right guard.

That’s like finding a bicycle under the Christmas tree when you are 7 years old, although he had never played guard and never thought of himself as one.

Now, he loves it.

“Left tackle in my mind is the hardest position you can play, starting with being in the left-handed stance,” he said.

Then your main assignment is the best pass rusher on the other side, the quarterback’s blind side in your hands. And you have to do it out of a two-point stance.

“Going from tackle to guard, you are in a three-point stance so you get to be more explosive coming off the ball. You get to stay low. At tackle I always thought it was low to get that pop because you were coming out of a two-point stance,” he said.

And, facing that pass rusher, quickness becomes a premium.

“I feel like quickness is important all around the offensive line. You have to be on your toes. You have big Shaq Rowell over you at guard. You can’t slip,” he said.

The Mountaineer coaching staff was faced with rebuilding the line this year, losing its three middle players in center Joey Madsen and guards Josh Jenkins and Jeff Braun, all three-year starters.

That forced Lucas’ move to guard as they began patching things together, trying to reconstruct a line that could protect the quarterback and do run blocking.

Those who moved in have a lot of work to do.

“There’s a lot of pressure,” Lucas admitted. “You lose a guy like Joey Madsen, one of the best centers in the nation; Josh Jenkins, one of the best guards; and Jeff Braun, who was a veteran guy who did a lot of things. That was one of the best middle three I ever have seen.”

Now the new men in the middle — center Pat Eger, guard Mark Glowkowski and Lucas — need to learn not only to block, all of them in new positions, but to work together as a group.

“It’s been hard, of course. It’s going to be hard. Coach (Ron) Crook, Coach (Shannon) Dawson and Coach (Dana) Holgorsen have been very patient,” Lucas said.

One suspects that patience will last until August.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

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