MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — When the whistle blared to end practice, offensive lineman Marquis Lucas couldn’t believe his own thoughts.
He actually wanted to go a few more plays.
“I caught myself getting kind of mad when Coach (Holgorsen) blew up practice, because I wanted to get a couple more sets,” said Lucas, who’s chasing a starting nod at left guard. That let’s-keep-going mentality is 180 degrees from last year’s camp, when he admitted to “kind of waiting on practice to be over because I wasn’t playing much.”
The third-year sophomore from Miami has been running with the first unit, yet remains in what coaches describe as a standoff with senior Pat Eger. On Friday, Lucas wasn’t speculating about the depth chart.
“You’ll have to ask the coaches about that, but I feel like I’m going out there and doing what I have to do everyday,” he said. “Pat’s doing a pretty good job, too, and it’s an intense competition right now. But at the end of the day, the best man will win.”
The 6-foot-4, 312-pound Lucas carries a new outlook after redshirting in 2011 and appearing only once last season, in scrub time as WVU buried Kansas 59-10.
“At one point I really wasn’t sure if I was ever going to make a push to get a starting spot,” he said.
Perhaps he would have climbed the depth ladder anyway—with WVU needing to replace senior guards Josh Jenkins and Jeff Braun—but Lucas doesn’t discount the impact of his relationship with new offensive line coach Ron Crook, or his inability to relate to former coach Bill Bedenbaugh.
“Coach Bedenbaugh was all tough-love and sometimes I really wasn’t sure how to take it,” Lucas said. “But now we’ve got Coach Crook and he’s a real understanding guy. He wants you to get the job done, and you’ll have to get the job done to keep a position, but Coach Crook is a guy anybody can get along with.
“Nothing against Coach Bedenbaugh, but I feel like the type of player I am with Coach Crook’s technique, I feel like it suits me much better.”
Does it suit him enough to win his position battle against Eger, the veteran who owns 19 college starts, though 18 of those came at tackle? Eger’s pass-protection struggles during WVU’s 48-45 win at Texas last season necessitated the move to guard. He even gave center a try during the spring but didn’t manage many reps between recovering from surgery on his left ankle and suffering a high sprain on his right.
“There’s more physicality inside, while tackle is more finesse and sometimes it’s all about footwork and angles,” Eger said. “When you get inside, you can just come off the ball and play nasty.”
Along with competing for playing time, the golden-maned Eger is also neck-deep in battle for another distinction—longest hair on the offensive line. He’s currently matched up against Lucas’ dreadlocks and the early-stage Fabio being flaunted by junior college signee Stone Underwood.
“Mine’s longer, without a question,” Eger said. “I’m holding on to it until the end of the season, and then I’m going to donate it and go back to a shaved head.”