Kansas State's coaching staff isn't into picking "surprise" players, but if really pressured, the name of Cornelius Lucas would most certainly come up in the conversation. So, are you a "surprise," Cornelius? "I wouldn't say that because I knew I had this in me."
Out of New Orleans, La., Lucas redshirted in 2009, had a few snaps in 2010, and a few more in 2011. But he never started, and never played at his home of offensive tackle when the game was on the line ... until this year when he started every game and became a first-team All-Big 12 performer at left tackle.
"It's just been a process," said Lucas. "Awards like that have always my aspiration, but it's just taken working toward it every day."
Lucas admitted that perhaps his "drive to excel" wasn't what it should have been before because there were fixtures on the line ahead of him.
"It wasn't right, but I knew I wasn't going to play on Saturday so maybe I didn't put enough into it," said Lucas. "This year I had guys in front of me leaving, so I knew the door was open … .it would be up to me. My motivation to play and practice harder went way up."
Of the 6-foot-9, 324-pound Lucas going from a non-factor in 2011 to a first-team all-conference player in 2012, line coach Charlie Dickey said, "He became committed to those ‘16 Goals' that coach has set. He decided he wanted to be a great player. You know, it takes time to grow, get stronger and learn the offense. With Cornelius, it's been a process. He's always been committed, but it's been a process."
Offensive coordinator Dana Dimel added of Lucas, "He's a guy who runs real well, plus is so long and he's athletic as heck. The light finally turned on for him, plus his strength and coordination caught up with his body. He has a huge top end."
That huge top end includes a frame that would certainly attract the attention of NFL scouts from Miami to Seattle, and New York to LA. "I hope that's in my future, but right now I just want to finish things right here (Fiesta Bowl). I'm having a great time at K-State and want to finish with a great senior year next year," said Lucas. "I'm hoping for much bigger and better things."
Lucas said he heard and read the questions about the offensive line being suspect prior to the start of the season, but in his words, "We used that doubt in us as fuel rather than being detrimental."
CHIPS AND DIPS:
Lucas said he played the entire 2012 season at 320 pounds, but quipped, "I haven't weighed in for a while and I've been eating a lot of those chips and dips down here (Tostitos Fiesta Bowl), so I don't know what I weigh today."
K-State offensive run game coordinator Dana Dimel says that a full cast of seven offensive linemen will be ready to play. That's Cody Whitehair and/or Tavon Rooks at RT, Keenan Taylor at RG, B.J. Finney at C, Boston Stiverson and/or Nick Puetz at LG, and Cornelius Lucas at LT.