Last year, Michel Dukes was just happy to be at Clemson. He was excited to be wearing the uniform and being a part of a national championship caliber team.
This year, the sophomore from Charleston was competing. During the Tigers’ nine practices this spring, Dukes ramped up his competitive juices, to the point where the coaching staff noticed there was something different about him.
“Chez (Mellusi) was a guy we kind of noticed early in fall camp. He had some maturity to him,” head coach Dabo Swinney said. “Mikey needed to mature. I just think he was just happy to be there.”
Dukes did get better as the season went along in 2019, as he finished with 150 yards and two touchdowns on 32 attempts while playing in 10 games. However, Mellusi proved his coaches’ instincts were right. He showed more promise, rushing for 279 yards, while playing in 12 games. He averaged 6.3 yards per carry and scored three touchdowns and lost just 3 yards on 44 attempts.
But as Swinney indicated, Dukes was a different player in the spring. He came to compete. He wasn’t just happy to be on the team anymore.
“He really ramped it up and he is competing very well,” Swinney said. “All of those guys, and obviously, we have a couple of good ones coming in this summer. It will be a very competitive room for sure.”
This spring, the Tigers, of course, had their two-time ACC Player of the Year back in Travis Etienne. They also had the team’s second leading rusher from a year ago, Lyn-J Dixon, back and then there was Mellusi and Dukes. Redshirt senior Darien Rencher decided to return to play football for one more season, as well.
In the summer, 5-star running back Demarkcus Bowman (5-9, 190) and Kobe Pryor are expected to enroll in school. If all holds true through the summer, it will mean the Tigers will have a ton of talent at the running back position heading into fall camp.
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