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KSU tackle Lucas starting to play big for Wildcats

Published on -10/10/2012, 10:27 AM

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By ARNE GREEN

Special to The Hays Daily News

MANHATTAN -- Cornelius Lucas always was big.

But for the better part of two years, he cast his 6-foot-9, 300-pound shadow on Kansas State's sideline.

Then something happened -- nobody's sure exactly when -- and all of a sudden Lucas started playing big as well.

"Last fall, I don't know what it was, but it was like a switch just got turned on or flipped," sophomore center B.J. Finney said of Lucas, who in his first season as a starter has added stability to the K-State line at left tackle. "He became very aggressive and extremely hard working and very diligent in what he was trying to do."

Defensive end Meshak Williams, a junior college transfer saw it, too.

""When I first got here, I was going against Cornelius a lot (in practice)," he said Williams said. "This was (last) year and I was getting around him a lot.

"But some way he woke up and got better. It came out of nowhere, and now you have to start scheming on how you're going to get past him."

The timing could not have been better for Lucas, a fourth-year junior from New Orleans. The Wildcats lost both starting tackles from last year's 10-3 team and were looking at two redshirt freshmen as starters on the right side of the line.

A pair of injuries further stretched the depth, leaving Finney as the lone returning starter. And still the line has excelled and K-State is off to another fast start.

The offense ranks ninth nationally in rushing, 41st overall, and 11th in scoring, and the Wildcats (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) are ranked No. 6 in the latest Associated Press poll.

"It's been pretty satisfying, but I'm not satisfied yet," Lucas said. "Our ultimate goal is to do big things, and we really haven't accomplished that yet."

Cody Whitehair, a redshirt freshman who moved from right tackle to left guard when Nick Puetz was injured in the season opener, said Lucas has played a key role in the line's success.

"Guys have stepped up and it's great to see," Whitehair said. "Cornelius comes to practice daily and works so hard and he's very consistent. He's a great player."

He's certainly better than he was when he arrived in 2009.

"He was a big boy, but that was about it," said senior tight end Travis Tannahill.

"He's become a football player, which is good, because we needed that."

Quarterback Collin Klein agreed.

"Big body's an understatement," he said with a laugh. "He's a big man.

"But he's really come into his own and he's working extremely hard."

Lucas shrugged off the transformation when asked if this was his breakout year.

"You could say that," he said. "Basically, I'd say I've just stepped into big shoes, and I'm trying to fill them."

So far, so good.

"He didn't play as much the past couple of years," said Williams. "But coming up as a starter, he's handled it well and helps us on the offensive line.

"I'm proud of him."

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