Curtis Dukes, RB (6-foot-1, 238 pounds)
Called "a small truck," "a beast" and "a tank" by observers, Curtis Dukes' combination of size and quickness has generated even greater excitement beyond the buzz he created when he got onto campus last year.
"You look at him and he almost seems too big to be an effective runner, but he's got good feet and can move in traffic," according to one observer. Although there has been speculation outside of the program that Dukes is destined to play fullback, observers we spoke with tend to disagree. "They are going to use his size on big boy sets, but he'll block and carry the ball. The coaches are really intrigued by what he could do at tailback. So far he showing that he could emerge into a workhorse back."
In fact, Dukes has drawn comparisons to a variety of Lion Legends, with one observer comparing him to Curtis Enis, although saying "I don't think he's as fast as Curtis," and another holding him up against Aaron Harris.
As one observer explained previously about his speed, "This guy is like what, 20 pounds heavier than [safety Gerald] Hodges, and can come pretty damn close to his speed."
Size: Dukes is massive, tipping the scales nearly of 240 pounds. To put that in perspective Dukes is a bit heavier than linebacker Michael Mauti, Chris Colasanti and Nate Stupar. Although "he's big," observers say "he has a great frame to carry his size."
Strength: Dukes "has tremendous power" and can "run over guys." As one observer said, "The guy is like a tank when he hits a hole. He ran over some linebackers -- he is tough to take down and can deliver a hit." On the flip side, like most young backs, he came into the program really having to work on his blocking. As strong as he is, he must show significant improvement in this area, especially when it comes to pass protection. Finally, though naturally big and strong, Dukes had to adjust to the PSU strength-training program. An observer said he really "turned the corner" in that department during winter workouts.
Speed: Dukes posts high 4.4-second range 40-yard dash speed, and has shown he can move quickly. He has solid footwork, although the coaches have him working a lot of agility drills with ladders and bags to "get him comfortable on his toes so he can make sharp cuts."
Vision: This is an aspect of his game that he has been -- pardon the pun -- focused on since last year. Dukes has been extensively working on getting the blocking reads down. As one observer said, "I think working and watching Evan [Royster] will help him pick that up." Dukes is said to have some great lateral moves and is focused on reading "lane developments," but "he fights for yardage."
Impact: With Royster and Stephfon Green are leading the pack at tailback, Dukes is getting a good amount of third-team reps. However, he's also battling with guys like Shaine Thompson and freshman Silas Redd, the recent enrollee who continues to "show great promise." Dukes is expected to get on the field and "is just too good to keep on the sideline." With junior Brandon Beachum expected to miss the 2010 while recovering from an ACL injury, Dukes will have the chance to emerge as a power back, but only if he continues to improve as a blocker, as well.
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