Dukes Quietly Gets the Job Done

CLEMSON – Since his freshman year in 2003, Marion Dukes has quietly gone about his business, flying under the radar. But as he enters his senior season, he's ready to burst onto the scene and make other take notice.

Dukes, who has never received the big-time accolades or much notoriety, may be the most fundamentally sound of the most experienced offensive line in the ACC.

Maybe the fact that he's usually one of the forgotten ones on the line is a good thing. When people take notice of a lineman, it's usually because he's getting beat and the quarterback is getting sacked.

"There's always something I need to work on. I go against two of the best in the ACC everyday in practice in Gaines and Phillip Merling, who's coming along, Boy, he's coming along," Dukes said. "I know that if I can block them, I can block other guys, too."

But it wasn't always like this.

"My freshman year, I came out here and the first day we were in pads, I did some good things, but, boy, I got blown up, blown by and everything," he said. "I was like, man, I've got to change something. So, I started studying to see what other guys did, like Greg Walker, who was in front of me. I'd critique him and see what he did and then I would compare him to me and then critique myself. That's how you become a good player."

Now, however, Dukes is poised to have his best season yet, as it should be.

CUTigersTV: OL Marion Dukes

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"This is my fourth year and I'm four steps ahead then where I was a freshman," he said. "Every year, I always got better at something. This year, I want to be the best on my team. I'm trying to make myself better as an all-around player."

At this level, nearly all the linemen have strong physical attributes. What separates the good from bad is what's between the ears.

"I think knowledge is one thing; just knowing the surroundings and having a good awareness," Dukes said. "A tackle has a lot to think about. You've got guys on the outside and guys on the inside and you've got to check out the safeties and see where they're lined up. There's a lot of things going on that people don't understand. The physical part will come, but you've got to have that mental part."

However, there was one aspect that Dukes had to work on and it was an odd, quirky type problem, which caused offensive line coach Brad Scott to do some yelling.

"His pass protection is great and he's always been solid," center Dustin Fry said. "He always used to have a tendency to look back at the ball when he was blocking and Coach Scott used to get on him a lot."

Dukes said there was a reason for him looking into the backfield, while engaging a defensive end or tackle.

"It got to the point where it seemed like somebody was always falling on my leg and I started looking around hoping nobody was going to fall on my ankles," he said. "I'd get my blocks and turn around real quick to make sure there wasn't anybody there. But I've changed that this year and my run blocking has gotten a lot better."

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