The Wolfpacker

May 2012

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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the right approach is taken. Sterling Lucas is a good example. The fifth-year senior linebacker was S likely to be the top reserve at inside line- backer in 2011, but a knee injury that required surgery forced him to sit out the season. In the process, Lucas may have found his calling. highly touted 2008 linebacker recruiting class. The Wolfpack inked four lineback- ers that year, including the top two from the state of North Carolina in Terrell Manning and Dwayne Maddox and the highly regarded William Beasley from the panhandle region in Florida. Lucas was the late find of the group. A Promising Career Stalled Lucas arrived at NC State as part of a He had flown under the radar throughout his high school career at Orangeburg (S.C.) Wilkinson High until playing in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas All- Star game in December 2008 in Spar- tanburg, S.C. He turned heads in practice and capped the week by recording a game- high eight tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery. Offers from Mary- land, Michigan State, NC State, North Carolina and South Carolina came, and State won a spirited recruiting battle for Lucas' signature. Lucas and Maddox both played as true freshmen that fall, and Lucas fin- ished with 16 tackles, including one stop behind the line of scrimmage, and a pass breakup. He added 51 hits as a sophomore and had his first two career starts. A promising career seemed to be un- folding, but Lucas saw his playing time dwindle in 2010 and posted just 19 tack- les, including a sack. That was followed by the knee in- jury that he sustained in the preseason. Fortunately he had a redshirt year avail- able that allowed him to focus on rehab rather than dwell on his career being over. "It was pretty tough," Lucas admitted. itting out a full season with an injury is difficult for any com- petitive football player, but it can also be a blessing in disguise if BY MATT CARTER and Lucas decided to pursue the redshirt. Besides, O'Brien had different plans in store for Lucas. ways been fond of Lucas, stating once last summer, "I couldn't be around a bet- ter person than Sterling Lucas." Tenuta wanted to find a way to Linebackers coach Jon Tenuta has al- Becoming A "Coach" keep Lucas involved, and so he sug- gested letting Lucas spend game days in the coaches' box with him, something O'Brien admitted he generally has not done in the past. "But Coach Tenuta wanted him up there," O'Brien stated. "He had him watching certain things for him, and knew that with him sitting out it would be an invaluable experience for him com- ing into this year." That's when head coach Tom O'Brien us going the right way and helps get us in the right coverage when we have to change." The year away from the field has left Lucas hungry for a big 2012 season. "We've got high goals here," Lucas Returning To The Field As A Leader said, noting that State is aiming for an ACC championship. He does not buy that the linebackers will be a weakness on the defense. "There's always people out there that IN DISGUISE BLESSING rarity for injured players. His job was simple; calling out personnel and forma- tions so that the defensive coaches could have all the information they needed to make play calls. "We make calls based on the person- Lucas even traveled with the team, a nel, so if I mess up the personnel, the call won't work," Lucas said. "It wasn't pressure, though." What it did for Lucas was allow him "I had a lot of faith. I'm a Christian. With God on my side, I feel like there's noth- ing I can't overcome." Lucas got his treatment every morn- ing, and he admitted that he tried to rush back at first. "I felt more weak than anything," Lu- cas noted. 44 ■ THE WOLFPACKER to develop a better understanding for the game. He has become a coach on the field for the defense, particularly impor- tant since the linebacker corps lost its top four players from 2011. Audie Cole and Maddox have graduated, while Manning went pro early and redshirt junior D.J. Green has been declared ineligible for this season. "He knows the defense," O'Brien said. "He was a de facto coach last year so he understands things, sees things quicker than a lot of those young kids do. So his experience helps get those young kids lined up and gets the guys in front of Fifth-Year Senior Linebacker Sterling Lucas Has Turned His Knee Injury Into A Positive and he said that "there is no other feeling like it" when chatting about being back on the field. He is one of the favorites to start at middle linebacker. He lined up with the first-stringers on defense in the Kay Yow Spring Game April 18 at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, lead- ing the Black team with five tackles. "I feel great," Lucas said. "Last year Lucas proclaims himself 100 percent, was a great year. I count it as a blessing, a blessing in disguise really, an opportu- nity to learn under Coach Tenuta. He's a great coach and a great teacher as well, so I learned a lot, and I feel like that will be really beneficial for me this year. "I got so much more insight. After- wards, I thought maybe once my playing career is over with I'll probably go into coaching, whereas before the season I never thought about it. It was a great experience." ■ Lucas, who made 86 tackles as a reserve in his first three seasons, is expected to start at middle linebacker for the Pack this season. PHOTO BY KEN MARTIN are going to say they are inexperienced, but I just feel like football is football," Lucas stated. "You play the same game in high school, just another level. We have a great coach in Coach Tenuta. He's doing everything he can to prepare everyone."

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