"At one point, I wasn't sure if I would ever make a push to get a chance at a starting spot," Marquis Lucas told BlueGoldNews.com. "But with time and dedication, and putting in a lot of extra work, you can make it happen. I got a boost of confidence in the spring when I took some reps with the ones. At first it was kind of overwhelming, but I told myself to settle down. I thought about it and decided 'I'm 6-4, I can do what it takes to hold down the position.'
Like most other linemen, there were been a couple of lean years for Lucas as he began his college career. The Miami, Fla., native redshirted during his first season, then saw brief action in 2012 on mop-up duty in the Kansas route. Other than that, it's been the anonymous grind that's the lineman's lot -- one that keeps him out of any sort of spotlight.
That time can be a mental drain on any athlete used to playing the sport he loves, and although fans are quick to dismiss a couple year's worth of work with a quick summation, it's not like that for the player involved. Lucas, like most with a good mental make-up, was able to plow through the long hours of lifting, running and practice sessions, and is now read to make his mark at left guard.
"I feel like I am so much more ready to play," he said, a smile breaking through on his face. "I look at the young guys, like Marcell (Lazard] and Tez (Tyler Tezeno) and I see them making the same kinds of mistakes I did as a freshman. It's tough to make that transition but everything gets better with time."
As Lazard was winding up his second year in the program, he met another challenge -- that of a new position coach. He clearly likes Ron Crook, but admits his techniques had to change in order to make the best impression.
"Coach Crook likes to focus on hand placement a lot, especially the backside hand when we are running zone plays. The footwork is a lot different, too. He really emphasizes on stepping off the right foot when taking a left zone and vice versa. Coach Bedenbaugh wanted us to set "out" some more [on pass protection] while Coach Crook wants us to set straight back so we can observe the linebacker and look right back inside. That's been the hardest transition for me. I am starting to get the hang of it."
There was also the matter of adjusting to a new personality at the front of the offensive line meeting room.
"Coach B was a a tough guy. I'm not saying Coach Crook isn't tough, but Coach B was more of a tough love guy. I wasn't always sure how to take it. Coach Crook is an understanding guy. You are going to have to get the job done for him, but you can talk with him. He's a guy that anyone can get along with. They are just two different guys with two different personalities."
The key for breaking routines, such as those pass drop paths, that have been ingrained over the past two years? Apply the brakes and concentrate on one aspect at a time.
"It's just slowing things down," Lucas explained. "Before the play you have to think of something that you want to focus on. It's a transition but I'm going to get it down."
For example, Lucas recently received emphasis on taking his drill performance to the scrimmage field. While he was getting, for example, the correct path on pass protection blocks, there were some technique issues that needed to be corrected.
"We watched film and I had a couple of false steps the past couple of days," Lucas related. "Coach Crook pointed those out and told me I needed to clear those up on the field. That's my goal for the next couple of practices.
Lucas has come a long way, and worked through that doubt, since the time he arrived on campus in 2011. In his view, it's his time to crable the spoils of a starting spot.
"I am going to fight my butt off every day to leave the impression with the coaches that I am the guy."