Southern Pigskin

Patrick Tukes: Finding His Niche

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By Barry Every
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This past season the 6-foot-3.5, 270-pound defensive lineman recorded 55 tackles, 15 TFL’s and ten sacks while catching three passes as the second tight end.

Over the last eight seasons Head Coach Matt Burleson has led McRae (Ga.) Telfair County to a (38-43) record, while competing in Region 2-A. That may not sound glamorous unless you consider that the Trojans went (1-19) the previous two seasons before his arrival. Also Region 2-A, considered by many the SEC of small school ball, has captured four of the last five GHSA-A (Public) State Titles.

With reclassification starting in 2020 the Trojans find themselves in Region 4-A. Things won’t be much easier as this new nine-team Region will include Dublin (Ga.), the reigning GHSA-AA Champions, Rochelle (Ga.) Wilcox County and Wrightsville (Ga.) Johnson County. Unlike the previous eight seasons, which used the Power Rankings to decide playoff positioning, only the top four teams will make the playoffs.

One player Burleson will be relying heavily on to lead Telfair to their first playoff appearance since 2017 is current junior Patrick Tukes. This past season the 6-foot-3.5, 270-pound defensive lineman recorded 55 tackles, 15 TFL’s and ten sacks while catching three passes as the second tight end. His on the field accomplishments did not go unnoticed as he was named First Team All-Region.

“Patrick is a very loving and light hearted kid that likes to joke around and he doesn’t have too many bad days,” Burleson said. “He is fun to be around and his personality is as big as his frame; he is just a good kid to be around. As a player for us he has really come on and found his niche. He had a good sophomore season and really dominated this past year. Teams were running away from him, so we started to move him around on the defense.”

Tukes currently holds offers from Akron, Coastal Carolina, Georgia State, South Carolina, Troy and Western Kentucky. He is also receiving strong interest from Georgia Tech, Middle Tennessee State and West Virginia.

“One school I’d like to hear from is Auburn; I just really love their defense and was able to visit there last summer,” Tukes said. “Currently I feel South Carolina is recruiting me the hardest and I was really impressed by the way Georgia State offered me on the spot while on my unofficial visit. As of now I am planning a visit to Columbia, South Carolina this coming weekend.”

This monster-sized strong side defensive end/defensive tackle hybrid did not camp anywhere last spring. He is currently making plans to camp at Georgia State, South Carolina and Troy.

“This is just his third year in the weight room and he is just starting to scratch the surface as a player,” Burleson said. “We are really looking for him to skyrocket this year in the weight room and on the field. I expect him to pick up a couple more offers this week. Coach Will Muschamp recently came to see him practice basketball.”

As of right now Tukes holds down a 3.0 GPA and is scheduled to take the SAT for the first time in April. He is no slouch in the weight room either boasting a 285-pound bench press and a 290-pound power clean. Tukes is not squatting right now because he is an impact player on the basketball court as a center and power forward. The three-sport star also participates in the shot and discus for the track team.

“He is one of the most heavily recruited players we had had since I’ve been here and the first player with an SEC offer,” Burleson said. “I definitely think he is an FBS player at the next level and he could end up with more Power Five offers. He is very strong and sees stuff very well from multiple positions on the field. This young man is so explosive off the ball with a great get-off and loads of natural ability.”

Tukes and Coach Burleson realize that he is not a finished prospect, but a raw diamond just waiting to be cut. He is someone that could play defensive end in a 3-4 defense or defensive tackle in a four man front. One thing is for sure, this behemoth weighs 270-pounds but looks like a skilled position player on the hoof.

“Most schools are recruiting me as a defensive tackle and I know I will have to continue to work on my footwork and getting faster,” Tukes said. On the other hand I simply dominate in my one-on-one matchups during pass rushing downs and that is probably my best asset.”

Recruiting usually takes care of itself if the grades, size and talent are in place; of course being proactive never hurts. Right now Tukes wants to lead his team to the GHSA playoffs, something the Trojans have only experienced twice in the last 15 years.

“I’ll do whatever it takes to help this team make the playoffs,” Tukes said. “We are having a spring game this year and that will go a long way to getting us ready for the upcoming season. I was thinking about going out for baseball this spring, but spring football is more important.”

Something that I’ve said more than once is the fact that DI talent can come from anywhere, despite the size of the school. This happens to be the case for Tukes as South Georgia small school ball has produced some of the greatest players ever to don helmet and pads. Look for this athletic three-sport star to continue an upward climb in recruiting despite being from McRae, Georgia – population 5,600.

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