MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Adam Pankey owns more career ejections than he does starts, and Marquis Lucas is transitioning back to the spot he last played in high school … in 2010.
Yet these are the far-and-away frontrunners at offensive tackle as West Virginia prepares for Saturday’s Gold-Blue spring game.
Those are crucial positions, and ones that sorely lack depth. Redshirt freshman Marcell Lazard is one backup, while junior-college signee Sylvester Townes needs to fill out his 6-foot-5 frame before handling Big 12 defensive ends. Another juco transfer, Justin Scott, won’t arrive until summer and developing redshirt freshman Grant Lingafelter left last Saturday’s scrimmage in Charleston with an unspecified leg injury.
So for now, the Pankey-Lucas tandem sits atop the depth chart, presumably by a wide margin. Despite lacking the experience of departed fifth-year seniors Curtis Feigt and Nick Kindler, the new duo provides more athleticism.
Before tearing a knee ligament last spring, Pankey drew raves from Dana Holgorsen and position coach Ron Crook. Though the injury threatened to shelve him for much of the regular season, Pankey’s rehab progressed ahead of schedule and he played in West Virginia’s final eight games.
One of his earliest appearances ended ignominiously—with a targeting ejection for a helmet-to-helmet crack-back block on a Baylor defensive lineman. The stigma from that disqualification vanished rather quickly for a player with months of pent-up aggression.
“It was fun, just getting to hit somebody,” Pankey said.
The former three-star recruit from Ohio should have ample opportunities to strike this season, entrenched at left tackle and entrusted with protecting the blind side of whichever quarterback Holgorsen ultimately chooses.
“I’m not where I need to be yet,” said the 6-foot-6, 304-pound Pankey, whose primary offseason aim is improving his upper-body strength. “I want to be an all-conference player, so I’m setting the bar high.”
On the opposite tackle, the redshirt junior Lucas is acclimating after sending the past three seasons at guard.
“It’s a little different when you’re out there on that island,” he said. “Not having that hand down, you lose power, so you’ve really got to watch for technique.”
Lucas started the first four games of 2013 at left guard, a string that ended with West Virginia’s 37-0 loss at Maryland. That shutout was the cue to move Quinton Spain inside from tackle, and Lucas appeared in six of the final eight games as a reserve.
A three-star prospect out of Miami, Fla., the 6-4, 312-pound Lucas said he’s confident about dealing with edge rushers. “They’re fast, but I feel like my feet are faster.”