If you thought Montana's wide receiver corps couldn't grow any larger, you might want to reconsider.
The already crowded position group, which currently lists 15 pass catchers and will welcome six more when fall camp opens in August, just added what will be its largest member.
Tyler Lucas, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound receiver from Penn State committed to Montana on Monday. Lucas, who will be a senior in 2015, plans to join the Grizzlies this summer after he completes his sociology degree at Penn State. He said he was offered a full-ride scholarship.
"It’s awesome to know where I’m going to be at for my last year and I can just focus on getting ready to prepare myself for the upcoming season to help them win a championship," Lucas told the Missoulian.
Montana will mark the third school for the well-traveled Lucas, who grew up in a military family that took him from Panama City, Panama, where he was born, to England, Japan and Scotland before he finished his high school ball in Pennsylvania.
After committing to Penn State out of Bellafonte (Penn.) High, where he played quarterback, Lucas spent two seasons with the Nittany Lions as a receiver before transferring to De Anza (California) Junior College to play quarterback as a redshirt sophomore.
Lucas spent much of his time at De Anza in 2013 running the Dons' spread offense before coach Dan Atencio moved the versatile Lucas to receiver to help alleviate double-teams focused on All-American receiver Brian Fobbs.
"He’s just a great athlete and he’s a hardworking kid," Atencio said Monday evening. "He came to us that way. I understand his brother was a player at Penn State so I don’t know if it’s in the genes or what."
"He is intense and he wants to work hard," Atencio later added. "I wish I would have had him for two years, I guarantee you he would have been an All-American for us."
Following his only year with the Dons, Lucas transferred back to Penn State at the request of head coach James Franklin, who took over the Nittany Lions' program in January 2014. Lucas rejoined the team, but it was expected he would serve in a back-up role.
"I thought it would be alright and I gave it a try to see what would happen, but I wasn’t really liking it and I wanted to play so I thought it would be best if I explored my options to transfer somewhere else," said Lucas, who caught 58 balls for 695 yards and 11 TDs at De Anza.
Football Bowl Subdivision progams Tulane, Pitt and Kent State expressed interest as did a host of Big Sky schools including Eastern Washington and Idaho State. But Lucas narrowed his list to Jacksonville State and Montana, and hoped he would spend his final season in Missoula after an official visit to the campus March 13-15.
"When I went out for the visit, it really felt like home," Lucas said. "When I was out there it was like everyone I ran into was so nice. It seems like a very, very nice area people wise. I was just randomly greeted by random people on the streets and they were just so nice."
Lucas' unusual timeline is made more atypical by the fact he didn't start playing American-rules football until he returned to the United States as a 16-year old. He then played sparingly for Penn State before his only full season on the field at De Anza. Atencio, for one, says he wouldn't be swayed by Lucas' year away from the field.
"I think guys are missing the boat on him, he’s really – he’s kind of a quiet kid, but he’s intense and works hard in the weight room," De Anza's coach said of Lucas, who will enroll in graduate school at UM. "You had to get him out of there because he’ll work, he’s not afraid to work. Great attitude, I think they’re getting a really good player."
After the year off, Lucas says he is eager to get on the field and learn Stitt's receiver-friendly scheme regardless of how many pass catchers he'll have to compete against come fall camp.
"We didn’t go as fast as they are at Montana, but it’s pretty similar," Lucas said comparing the system at De Anza to the one he'll learn this fall. "It was more a pass-run type of deal so we spread the ball out a lot at the Juco. Both the offenses throw the heck out of the ball, so I’m pretty excited about that."