Michel Dukes won’t be leaving the Palmetto State for his college football career.
The First Baptist running back publicly committed to Clemson on Saturday. He made the announcement at his school, surrounded by family, friends and teammates.
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Dukes will sign with the Tigers on Wednesday as part of national signing day. He is the second instate player for the Tigers’ class of 2019, joining Swansea linebacker Greg Williams. Clemson had 26 players sign or enroll during the early signing period in December.
“They stayed with me throughout the whole process ever since I was a freshman,” Dukes told reporters after he went public with his decision, which he actually made privately to Clemson coaches while on his official visit last month.
Co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott, who is from the Charleston area, attended several of his football and basketball games the past two years. But the Tigers didn’t offer him until his official visit.
Tigers coach Dabo Swinney made a visit to First Baptist on Thursday as Clemson continued its push for the running back. Dukes said Swinney’s visit created quite a stir with students lining up in the hallway to meet the coach.
“Him coming down to see me just let me know that they wanted me to part of their team,” Dukes said. “The visit up there was amazing, just meeting all the players and communicating with the coaching staff. The environment with the coaches, the atmosphere with the players and coaches is amazing. Me and coach Elliott communicated throughout the whole process and I knew that offer was going to come.”
Dukes also visited Syracuse and East Carolina, which offered him to play both football and basketball. South Carolina also offered him early in the recruiting process.
He hopes to play as a true freshman, he said.
“My primary position will be running back,” Dukes said Saturday. “I’m pretty sure they’ll move me around the field.”
247Sports ranks Dukes a three-star prospect and 11th best in the state for Class of 2019. He is the second running back in the Tigers’ recruiting class to go along with Chaz Mellusi out of Naples, Florida. Clemson also is in the mix for Jerrion Ealy of Alabama, who like Dukes is a two-sport standout. Ealy plays baseball.
Rivals recruiting analyst Paul Strelow thinks Dukes could have the kind of career like CJ Fuller, the former Clemson running back who died last year. Fuller appeared in 43 games for the Tigers and was member of the Tigers’ 2016 national title team.
“Michel Dukes will be that guy who earns running backs coach Tony Elliott’s trust over time and carves out a rotation niche amid his more decorated peers. He’s competitive, he’s tough, he’s invested in Clemson and has the overlooked chip on his shoulder,” Strelow said. “The Tigers should land a higher-profile name in 2020 and could still add another marquee back to this class in Ealy.
“Dukes, though, is the type of glue guy Clemson has seemed to hit on time and again and from whom the Tigers typically squeeze production exceeding their rating.”
Dukes was a four-year starter at First Baptist, a private school located in Charleston. He had more than 8,000 total yards and 120 touchdowns in his career. He helped the Hurricanes to back-to-back SCISA state championships in 2016 and 2017.
First Baptist moved up to Class 3A this year and made to the title game but lot to Hammond. Dukes rushed for 333 yards and two touchdowns against Porter-Gaud in a state semifinal game.
Dukes also is an accomplished basketball player and scored more than 1,000 points in his career. The point guard had 27 points in Friday’s loss to Cardinal Newman.
Dukes detailed giving up his love of basketball for football in a first-person piece to the Moultrie News, titled “Dear Basketball.”
“See basketball, as much as you mean to me, right now, football is what’s best for me. I’ve been blessed with scholarship offers from some of the best football programs in the country.,” Dukes wrote. “It’s weird because it feels I’m leaving a relationship that I want to be in. It feels like a divorce. I guess I don’t even really know what a divorce feels like but this is probably pretty close. At the same time, it feels like the best day of my life. It feels like everything I’ve been working for.”