Clemson University

Clemson freshman running back already turning heads

Clemson OC Tony Elliott breaks down freshman running backs

Michel Dukes, Chez Mellusi are off to a strong start
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Michel Dukes, Chez Mellusi are off to a strong start

Clemson co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach Tony Elliott has been around a number of impressive backs during his time with the Tigers.

But he has never had a back who is as natural at catching the ball out of the backfield as freshman Michel Dukes.

“I think Mikey’s got the most natural ball skills of any guy that I’ve had, including (Andre) Ellington,” Elliott said following Friday’s practice. “It’s just easy for him. You can see it.”

Dukes and fellow freshman Chez Mellusi arrived on campus this summer, and the two are already turning heads. They haven’t different playing styles, but both have made plays throughout fall camp.

“They compliment each other very, very well. I think we all know Chez is the bigger guy. He’s got really, really good straight line speed. He doesn’t mess around. He’s a one-cut guy, understands that no cut is the best cut,” Elliott said. “Where Mikey is an elusive guy that catches the ball extremely well. Probably has the best ball skills of anybody I’ve ever had here at Clemson. So I think they’re going to compliment each other that way.”

Both players will be counted on this season as Clemson lost running backs Adam Choice and Tavien Feaster off of last year’s team. The Tigers return ACC Player of the Year Travis Etienne and rising sophomore Lyn-J Dixon, who had a strong freshman season.

Booth shines

Five-star cornerback Andrew Booth is another player who did not arrive in Clemson until this summer, but players and coaches have been raving about his athletic ability throughout fall camp.

That continued when Elliott met with the media on Friday.

“I haven’t seen many freshmen corners come in the door like Booth,” Elliott said.

The 6-foot-1 defensive back is physical and fast and appears to be someone capable of helping the Tigers this season.

“He’s got a good confidence about him. Not cocky at all, but a really, really good confidence. And you can tell, man, he’s a football player. Very instinctual. Smart. You can tell that he’s maseter of his craft at a young age,” Elliott said. “You can tell that he’s a craftsman. And that’s what makes him special. Then obviously he’s long. He can run. But you can tell mentally he’s in a different ballpark.”