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HILLSVILLE –– Discussing the attributes of an offensive lineman is different than a conversation about those of any other position. Outside of physical size, a lot can be subjective. Runningbacks, quarterbacks and receivers have their yards and their touchdowns. Linebackers and defensive backs have their tackles and interceptions. Even defensive linemen can impress with their sack totals.
Offensive linemen have…grades?
Lucas Holder has a number that should make an impression on anybody. That number is 1.
In two years as the starting left tackle – usually the key spot on the line for a passing offense – Holder allowed one sack.
At 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, Holder has the physical numbers. That size, a positive list of more subjective qualities such as footwork, hands and instinct, and allowing one sack in two years impressed Liberty University enough to offer the Carroll senior a scholarship, and Holder signed his letter-of-intent Wednesday with the Flames.
Holder is one of five offensive linemen in a recruiting class of 21 for Liberty head coach Turner Gill. Holder cited Gill and his staff as a main reason for choosing the Lynchburg school.
“The first time I went there I saw them as coaches and saw them talk to their players, and they weren’t cussing anybody or anything like that,” he said. “But when I went for my official visit I not only saw them as coaches, I saw them as men, and I saw them as husbands. I saw what kind of men they are and how they carried themselves, and I thought if I could be half the men they are then I could have a pretty good life because they are class-A people.”
Holder is believed to be the first Cavalier to earn a Division I scholarship since Kim Gillespie (Richmond) and Lynn Conner (Wake Forest) in the early 80s. Both were signed after two years at Ferrum, which was then a junior college.
“I had at least six Division I schools call about him and several came here to visit with Lucas,” Carroll County coach Tom Hale said. “What impressed them was how a big guy like that could move. He’s a multiple-sport athlete, he plays basketball and baseball, and they look at things like that. They want athletic linemen, not just big guys, and Lucas fits that to a tee.”
Holder could have entered as a preferred walk-on at one of any number of FBS schools and was offered an academic scholarship at Columbia. Liberty, an FCS (formerly I-AA) entity, had too much to offer as a school and a football program, having won four of the past six Big South Conference championships.
“It’s a great place to be,” Holder said. “The school will develop you as a whole person, academically, athletically, spiritually, you turn yourself into the best person you can be.”
After opening the Turner Gill era with four straight losses, Liberty rebounded and won six of its final seven games, including a 5-1 conference mark, losing only to eventual conference champion Coastal Carolina.
Gill will be in his second year at Liberty after two years as the head coach at Kansas. He made a name for himself by turning around the moribund Buffalo program and was a finalist for the 2008 Bear Bryant National Coach of the Year Award.
Before that, Gill was an assistant for 12 seasons at his alma mater, Nebraska, where he was a Big 12 all-decade quarterback for the Cornhuskers.
Hale believes that Gill has a kid with a lot of upside coming his way.
“Lucas can easily be a 300-pounder in a year,” Hale said. “He’s 250 now, and he could easily get to 300 and not look a whole lot different than he does now. But what impresses the coaches I’ve talked to about him is how well he moves his feet for a person his size. I think he’s got a good future because of that.
“Each of the last two years, we’ve thrown the ball more than the previous three or four years combined. But he’s given up one sack in two years. One sack related to him not doing his assignment. He moves well, he gets on them, he uses his hands well. He’s a good leader, a good kid, he tries everything we ask him to do, as hard as he can.”