FAU wide receiver William Dukes is emerging as the Owls' big play receiver this spring. (OwlAccess.com photo)
Filling the void
Coaches who've watched William Dukes make plays and becoming a leader this spring say the true freshman wide receiver has a big future at FAU.
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BOCA RATON – When DeAndre Richardson and Paul Moore suffered injuries that prematurely ended their spring practice, wide receivers coach Jeff Sims started looking for another player to take on a leadership role.
Sophomore-to-be William Dukes has become that guy.
“Everyday I'm out here I have to remind myself that this is the first college spring ball he's been though,” Sims said. “I really think he's responded since Paul and Dre went down because when camp started he didn't have to have a leadership role, he just had to be a guy who was working hard.”
Dukes caught 12 passes totaling 75 yards as a true freshman despite breaking a bone in his foot during when he chased a pass into a promotional tent that was obviously too close to the end zone during the FanFest scrimmage prior to the start of the season.
“There shouldn't be any tents in the stadium (on Saturday)- I hope not,” said Dukes, adding that the foot still bothers him sometimes.
Dukes has been among the receivers who quickly caught on to the new spread offense FAU is running this spring.
His leaping, one handed catch in the corner of the end zone provided the biggest highlight during Saturday's second spring scrimmage.
FAU coaches had already realized the 6-foot-4 Dukes could make flashy plays. Now they are looking for consistency.
“William Dukes has a big future here,” Sims said. “That is a play that over the next three years we should see William Dukes make continually. He has that type of ability, but he has to go from being a true freshman to being a major college wide receiver.”
Dukes is also impressing even when he doesn't catch the ball.
“People see that catch, but what I've seen is he's made some devastating blocks,” Sims said.
Dukes believes FAU fans should expect to see him make big plays every time he takes the field.
“That's what I do,” he said.
- Stepping up: Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Karl James received some time with the first team at the end of practice.
- Making plays: Quarterback Stephen Curtis and William Dukes connected on back-to-back slants for good yardage during the team scrimmage portion of practice. ...Graham Wilbert hit Damian Fortner on a wheel route for a big gain. ...Travis Jones caught a similar pass from Curtis and would have gone a long way had he kept his footing.
- Instant message: “I've taken time - two or three times over the course of the spring - to go back and watch the first day of practice just to remind myself of where we started. We've come a long way, but we have a long way to go.”
- FAU coach Carl Pelini
- Up next: The Owls will hold their final practice before the spring game on Friday at 3:30 p.m. Practices are closed to the public.