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Marquis Lucas Growing at Guard for WVU

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MORGANTOWN -

They called themselves the "three-headed monster." Interior offensive linemen Josh Jenkins, Joe Madsen and Jeff Braun paved the way for the Mountaineers' front last season, but now each is done from the team.

Their absence has left the door wide open for competition to fill the center and guard positions and a player like Marquis Lucas benefits.

Simply having the positions available is one thing, but Lucas made a real effort in the time between last season's end and the start of camp to push himself to new limits and prove what he is capable of.

Last year, I didn't play much at all," said Lucas, a sophomore. "I was behind a guard who was really good, but at the same time, I wasn't ready to be out there. I wasn't ready to play. Now, I feel like I've prepared myself better, so I can go out there and produce."

Some of the other linemen in contention for jobs this fall have pointed to Lucas as perhaps the more improved player along the front five. At 6-foot-4, 312 pounds, he certainly carries the frame to get the job done on the inside, but he has heard his name mentioned in the preseason before.

It hasn't always translated to playing time once the schedule began. This year, he wants that to change.

"I think it's just showing my coaches and also my teammates how hard I worked this offseason," Lucas said. "I didn't notice how much I changed until I had a couple of people tell me and I sat back and thought about it. It has a lot to do with maturing and getting older and really buying into the program."

New offensive line coach Ron Crook has noticed Lucas' progression, as well. In the spring, when he first got to West Virginia, he was looking for players to impress him regardless of what they may or may not have done in the past and since that time Lucas has made real strides.

"I don't know if I would say he was the biggest change, but it's definitely clear that it's very important to him right now," Crook said of Lucas. "You can tell with his approach, mentally and physically, and with the gains he's made over the summer. He's had a great work ethic all year. He's definitely a guy we're expecting big things out of this year."

In truth, getting Crook on the staff may be one of the biggest reasons why Lucas has been able to rise to the top, to the point where he is currently takes reps as the No. 1 left guard.

"Coach Crook is a great guy. Nothing against Coach [Bill] Bedenbaugh, but I feel like the type of player I am with Coach Crook's technique, I feel like it suits me much better," said Lucas. "[Crook] emphasizes every little thing and that's great. If you emphasize everything, eventually – I'm not going to say it's going to be perfect, but it's going to get better every day."

Lucas has to maintain whatever mentality has gotten him to this point and keep it going if he wants to remain a starter on the line. Behind him right now is Pat Eger, one of the most experienced offensive linemen on the team, but a player who had to battle back from a spring injury to work his way up the depth chart.

Crook has no doubt that if Eger does not start a game, he will get into the lineup shortly thereafter. Lucas' job is to push himself so that he can stay in the game as long as possible and not be the reason why Eger – a swingman of sorts – is substituted in.

"Pat's pretty good. He's a really good player and he's also played a lot of different positions," said Lucas. "Having Pat behind me, that just gives you that uncomfortable feeling. It's like you have a spot, but you don't have it, so you've got to go out there and prove it every day."

The Miami, Fla. native does not want to pass up an opportunity to be involved with an offense that he feels could be as balanced as any WVU has had in recent years. Just watching the running backs behind him in practice has him amped up for the possibilities in 2013.

"I'm very excited," said Lucas. "We've got four or five guys back there who can really run the ball. I've played with great backs in high school, but I've never seen a stable of guys like this. This is exciting.

"Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I think about it and I can't do nothing but smile."

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