Marion Dukes was ranked as the No. 8 overall player in South Carolina by Scout.com coming out of Pickens High School in 2003. He was also rated the No. 2 offensive lineman in the state according to the Charlotte Observer and was named a First-Team AP All-State performer that year. At Clemson, he avoided a redshirt year as a freshman and played in 10 of 13 games, mostly as a right tackle.
Marion Dukes enters his third year in the Tigers' football program as the starting right tackle with practically no established depth behind him. Incoming freshman Corey Lambert could eventually push for playing time, but for now, Dukes is the starter and stands to see a majority of the snaps this year.
Dukes suffered through a health scare last August when he started feeling chest pains during practice. Dukes said later of the incident, which proved to be harmless, "The day it happened, it scared me. It scared the death out of me. I never had felt anything like that before in my chest. But I had an EKG (afterwards) and another EKG before in the past. Both of them were kind of similar. The tests came back great, and my heart was fine. It was more of a muscular thing. My heart rate, my blood pressure, everything else was just fine."
Dukes was one of two offensive linemen in the 2003 recruiting class to avoid a redshirt as a true freshman (Brandon Pilgrim also played, but later redshirted his sophomore season). He saw 97 snaps in 10 games that year, and graded out at 82-percent in Clemson's 63-17 win over South Carolina.
The rising junior was named the Most Improved offensive tackle in terms of strength and conditioning at the end of spring practice this year.
With the addition of new offensive coordinator Rob Spence, the importance of establishing the run will be an even bigger priority for the Tigers this year. What does that mean for a player like Marion Dukes? For starters, it means he's going likely receive additional help in the form of one, two, or even three tight ends. Spence likes to incorporate multiple tight ends in his formations, especially in goal line and short yardage situations. Of course, being out on the edge, Dukes will also be responsible for protecting senior QB Charlie Whitehurst, which is a job he's done reasonably well during his first two years at Clemson.
Dukes during spring practice 2004.
Dukes poses for guest CUTigers.com photographer Justin Miller during this year's spring game.