It's something of a cliche to ask a player entering his second year of significant action whether he's more comfortable now than he was a year ago. Almost uniformly, the answer is going to be "yes". However, going a bit deeper on that issue with West Virginia tackle Marcell Lazard reveals some of the reasons why he feels that way. It even spills over into his question and answer sessions with the media, where he was a relaxed presence after the Mountaineers' most recent open practice session.
A year ago, Lazard was coming off a redshirt freshman season in which he had gotten just a couple of token appearances at the end of games. He was still battling to learn many of the nuances of the position, and as most high-level athletes can explain, having to think about technique or assignments doesn't contribute to playing freely. His work to improve in those areas continued through the first part of 2015, but as the season progressed offensive line coach Ron Crook saw development that pointed toward a need for increased playing time. Lazard responded, staring the final six games while earning nearly 500 snaps on offensive plays from scrimmage. Included in that total was a draining 86 snaps against Arizona State in the Cactus Bowl, where he helped limit the Sun Devils' prodigious pass rush to spark a WVU win.
Coming off that performance, Lazard entered the spring as the leader at right tackle, and even with a push from redshirt freshman Colton McKivitz, is still holding down that edge starting position entering the final week of practice. His comfort level has certainly contributed to his improving arc of performance.
"We've played a lot of good teams, so I know that deep down inside I can block these guys," Lazard said while explaining the process of improvement. "Last season wasn't a perfect season, and I'm trying to build off it. And Colt is doing a great job for as young as he is. He's pushing me every day."
Without reading too much into it, there's an ease in Lazard's manner that speaks to the growing confidence he has in his play. Some of that may be due to simply getting used to interviews and speaking with gaggles of microphones taking in every word, but some of it also appears to stem from all the lessons he's learned on the field as there. Watching him there, he gets the call and gets to his spot quickly, but there's no head turning, wide eyes or other adjustments that can sometimes signal a player isn't fully at ease. He looks in command, and if his level of play continues to rise, and McKivitz continues to progress, the Mountaineers may get even better play out of the right tackle position than they had hoped.