Duke lands S.C. running back Mataeo Durant

Running back Mataeo Durant of McCormick, S.C,, shown here catching a pass during the EPT Skills Showcase in Columbia, S.C. last May, committed to play football at Duke on Saturday.
Running back Mataeo Durant of McCormick, S.C,, shown here catching a pass during the EPT Skills Showcase in Columbia, S.C. last May, committed to play football at Duke on Saturday. online@thestate.com

Duke added its first running back to its 2018 football recruiting class on Saturday when Mataeo Durant committed to the Blue Devils.

A three-star running back from McCormick (S.C.) High School, Durant’s five finalists, in addition to Duke, included Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech and Wofford.

He made the announcement during a ceremony at his school, holding up a Duke visor to show his choice.

“I chose Duke because I knew it would be great for me,” Durant said, according to Augusta, Georgia, television station WRDW. “It felt like home as soon as I walked on campus. Everybody made me feel welcome. I felt like when I get to the university, I can make a big impact from the start.”

Durant, who is 6-feet tall and weighs 180 pounds, has been clocked from 4.46 to 4.65 seconds on the 40-yard dash. His combination of speed and power drew plenty of offers from ACC and SEC schools. He’s rated as the No. 25 prospect from South Carolina in the 2018 class by 247sports.com.

“It feels great proving people wrong,” Durant told WRDW, “because everyone always told me I was a big fish in a little pond, and I’d never make it out of McCormick playing football or go D1 at all.”

He’s the second player in four days to pick Duke over Virginia Tech. Southern Lee High School defensive back Nate Thompson of Sanford, also a three-star player, committed to Duke over the Hokies on Wednesday.

“It feels great,” Durant said. “It feels like a lot of pressure is off my shoulders, because I was always frustrated about what to choose. But now I’m sure of where I want to go.”

Durant said the athletic facilities upgrades Duke has put forth over the last seven years made an impact. He’s planning to major in business and said Duke’s academic reputation factored in his decision as well.

“The facilities were nice, but it’s going to be a great education for me,” Durant said. “So, even if I don’t make it to the next level, I’ll have a degree and be set for life.”

The Blue Devils now have 14 committed players for the Class of 2018. Coach David Cutcliffe and his staff are in strong position to post a third consecutive top-50 recruiting class nationally. Duke’s 2018 class was rated No. 30 nationally by 247sports.com before landing Durant.

Durant joins Wake Forest Heritage quarterback Gunnar Holmberg, wide receivers Dennis Smith of Gaffney, S.C., Jake Bobo of Belmont, Massachusetts and Jarret Garner of Harrisburg’s Hickory Ridge High School as three-star offensive skill position players in the class. Duke also has a three-star tight end in Zamari Ellis from Henderson’s Southern Vance High School.

Durant will arrive on campus next year as Duke will say goodbye to running back Shaun Wilson, who is expected to start this season as a senior. Durant will join a strong group of young running backs on Duke’s future rosters.

Redshirt freshmen running backs Brittain Brown and Elijah Deveaux are slated to see their first game action as college players this season. Duke’s 2017 recruiting class included running backs Marvin Hubbard and Deon Jackson. All four of those players signed over the last two seasons were also rated as three-star players by the various recruiting services. Notre Dame attempted to sway Jackson away from Duke last January before he signed with the Blue Devils.

Steve Wiseman: 919-419-6671, @stevewisemanNC