After a year on the sidelines, newly elected captain Sterling Lucas is ready to get back on the field and lead the defense. He'll especially need to provide leadership at his position because, as a veteran of 36 games and two starts, he is the most experienced linebacker on the squad. While Lucas redshirted last year with a knee injury suffered in preseason camp, eligible linebackers still on the 2012 roster accounted for just 43 snaps from scrimmage last fall.
Despite the inexperience, though, Lucas, who has appeared in 459 career snaps and tallied 86 tackles, is confident in the group he practices with every day. A large part of that confidence is because of the presence of linebackers coach Jon Tenuta, who added the title of associate head coach for defense this past offseason. Lucas spent last fall in the coaches' box during games and tried learning everything he could under Tenuta, who has served as a defensive coordinator for 16 years at seven different schools during his three decades-plus as a coach.
"I feel like Coach Tenuta is a great coach and he'll get the job done because we have a lot of great talent in the room," the fifth-year senior said. "Learning under him last year was great and I feel like it was a blessing. I just got to pick his brain and I think it's really going to pay off this year. It helps me 100 percent on the field, I feel like a totally different player out there. Everything is faster now, I can make calls and I can help guys behind me, guys in front of me and guys beside me; it's a great feeling.
"God has crazy ways of getting things done. I learned a tremendous amount. I got to learn from a coach's perspective. I see why a lot of coaches got a lot of gray hairs, but it was a good experience."
Lucas called his coach a defensive guru and Tenuta has likened his veteran linebacker to a coach on the field.
"He can get any one of us prepared to play this season," the starting middle linebacker noted. "We're just going to come out here every day and get better. We're going to focus on not making the same mistakes twice and learning from Coach Tenuta on a daily basis."
Lucas also had the honor of being named a team captain recently, and he is more than willing to serve in that capacity for his final year on campus.
"It's an honor and I don't take it lightly," he said. "I'm going to do whatever it takes to lead this team to an ACC Championship.
"God allowed this [his fifth year] to happen for a reason and I feel like this is going to be our year. Our goal is nothing less than an ACC Championship. That was our goal coming in, I came here in 2008 and I feel like we're all on the same page, the mentality has really changed around here. I feel like we're ready to go."