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Mike Leach says WSU rookie Abraham Lucas is ‘one of the best offensive linemen’ in Pac-12

Washington State freshman offensive lineman Abraham Lucas, right, has impressed Cougars coach Mike Leach with his play this season. (Young Kwak / AP)

PULLMAN – More often than not, the thankless grunt work carried out by offensive linemen on a football field goes unnoticed and underappreciated. Fans flock to quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers for autographs before they ever approach a lineman. Media members usually overlook them when highlighting the most important plays of a football game. And box scores don’t recognize the linemen – at least not officially.

As entire units, offensive lines rarely get their due. So it’s even more seldom that the individual parts of a line receive much press.

Playing opposite a left tackle who could be picked up in the first three to four rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft, and two spots over from a third-year center who’s on the Rimington Award watch list, Washington State’s redshirt freshman right tackle Abraham Lucas is at least the third-most likely Cougar offensive lineman to be lauded.

Well, perhaps until now.

WSU coach Mike Leach, renowned for his admiration of the offensive line position, heaped praise on the rookie from Everett during his weekly news conference Monday.

“The most impressive thing is Abe’s one of the best offensive linemen in the conference as a freshman,” Leach said. “And I think that’s impressive.”

Lucas is anchoring the right edge of an offensive line that’s allowed just seven sacks in nine games – best in the Pac-12 and tied for fifth-best in the country. No stat sheet will commend Lucas, left tackle Andre Dillard, left guard Liam Ryan, center Fred Mauigoa and right guard Josh Watson for protecting the country’s leading passer, but Gardner Minshew hasn’t ascended the national charts without a clean pocket and his 3,517 yards and 27 touchdowns can be largely attributed to the play of his O-line.

And every time a defender comes flying around the right side, Lucas is the one trying to shield him off – successfully more times than not.

“He’s done a good job and he’s gotten better and better as the season’s gone on,” Leach said. “And there’s another guy that as long as we’re talking about ceilings, I don’t know where his ceiling is but it’s up there pretty good.”

There may not be another player on the WSU roster who’s undergone more of a physical transformation than Lucas since the Archbishop Murphy (Seattle) graduate came to the Cougars in 2017. On his 247Sports recruiting profile, Lucas, who only had offers from WSU, Wyoming and Idaho, was listed at 6-foot-7 and a shade under 260 pounds. When the Cougars released their 2018 fall roster, one of those numbers had changed drastically Lucas came in at 6-foot-7, 320 pounds.

“I mean he’s huge,” Leach said. “I don’t know if I’ve seen anyone at his age that big. So let’s start with that one. Big, long arms. He’s not a guy with a big belly, he’s all cut up and sharp looking. Then he moves his feet pretty well.”

Lucas has earned WSU’s “Bone” award twice this season – given weekly to the top performer on the offensive line – and was named one of 20 standout performers by Pro Football Focus after the third week of the season. PFF also named Lucas to its Pac-12 Team of the Week after WSU’s win over Oregon.

Leach has been impressed by Lucas’ ability to pick up concepts in a short period of time and, more than that, build up the physical strength to be able to compete in the Pac-12 trenches as a freshman.

“I do think that’s a position that’s hard to start at early, because you have to choreograph the others and you have to kind of have those big solid man-type muscles in order to survive in there,” Leach said.