Dukes leaves team, considering next step

Running back Curtis Dukes is no longer with the Penn State football team, but his high school coach said Monday afternoon that Dukes is still weighing his options between a transfer and declaring for the NFL draft.

"He's still looking at those options," Indian River (N.Y.) coach Cory Marsell said. "He wanted to get his grades back to see what those were like first, but he didn't specify where he was leaning."

After backing up Silas Redd in 2011, he seemed on pace to take the starting spot following Redd's transfer to USC. But academic problems prevented him from taking part in spring practice, and he failed to gain a good understanding of the playbook.

Bill O'Brien announced Dukes' decision to leave Monday morning during a news conference, but he said academics did not play a role.

Dukes finished the 2012 season with just 26 carries for 98 yards -- one season after rushing for 237 yards on 41 carries. He finished third on the team in rushing in 2011, and he was the team's leading returning rusher.

Dukes complained publicly in October to his local newspaper, the Watertown (N.Y.) Daily Times, about his playing time. That topic was a sore point for Dukes throughout the season, although he remained on the roster through the final game.

"I've been in this game for too long, and I feel I deserve more of a shot, to have more playing time and get more exposure," Dukes told the paper.

Although Dukes is a rising redshirt senior, Penn State's sanctions allow the senior to transfer elsewhere without penalty. He can opt to play for a FBS or FCS team and not sit out a year.

Dukes is the first player to leave since the end of the season, and his departure wasn't much of a surprise. Marsell said Oct. 12 that Dukes was considering leaving after the season -- and, with more competition in the backfield in 2013, he could have again struggled to see considerable playing time.

He leaves Penn State with 69 career carries for 351 yards and a touchdown. He played in 19 games.