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State's top running backs post impressive numbers

Columbia – In terms of power five Division I running backs, the 2017 class of ball-carriers is not as deep as it has been in other years.

However, make no mistake. The 2017 class of running backs is talented and productive. There are several backs getting college interest as the season begins but only one back, Mateo Durant of McCormick, had received an offer from one of the major schools. Durant verbally committed to Duke University midway through the summer.

The 6-1, 190-pound Durant will be a fourth-year starter for the Chiefs. Durant has 4.38 speed, bench presses 315 pounds with a 425 squat. Last season, Durant rushed for 1,375 yards while picking up 82 tackles as a defensive starter.

“Academics are a big thing to me and Duke offers me a great education in addition to an opportunity to play football,” said Durant earlier this summer. “For educational purposes and football, it’s the best of both worlds.”

Durant also held offers from Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Wofford and several other schools.

Durant could be considered the state’s top prospect at running back but he has plenty of company. In terms of production, several running backs put up huge numbers as juniors and will be among the top rushers again this fall.

Newberry High’s Amir Abrams (5-9, 185, 4.54) was among the state’s leading rushers last season. Abrams finished the year with 2,486 yards and 37 touchdowns, gaining about 1,000 yards in the state playoffs alone. He was named the Midlands offensive player of the year by The State newspaper after last season.

Abrams has drawn lots of Division II and FCS interest over the summer, listing Newberry, The Citadel, East Tennessee State and Lenoir-Rhyne among the most interested schools during the spring. He attended spring games at Newberry and East Tennessee State and attended a junior day at South Carolina State.

Abrams has solid speed with great feet and runs with power. He is adept on the inside or the perimeter, and the more he carries the ball, the stronger he gets. Three times last season he had at least 39 carries, topping 200 yards in each game.

“He’s a blue-collar kid, sees the hole and gets it,” Newberry head coach Phil Strickland says.

Chapman won the Class AAA state championship last season behind one of the state’s most potent offenses. The Panthers rolled up more than 8,300 yards in total offense, including a 3,700-yard passer and a 2,400-yard rusher.

That ground game was paced by junior D.J. Twitty, who rushed for 2,436 yards on a whopping 403 carries. Twitty scored 24 rushing touchdowns last season and has even bigger goals for 2017.

“From a team perspective, of course I want to repeat as state champions,” Twitty says. “We know the target is on our back now and everyone is gunning for us since we are the top dog, but we relish that. We want to be the team to beat.

“For my personal goals, I want to rush for 3,000 yards and score at least 30 touchdowns. I think that’s within reach. I feel like I am capable of being better and more productive in this offense this coming year.”

Twitty has been receiving strong interest from Duke, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia State.

“I’m listening to schools from all levels and just taking my time to see what’s going to be available to me,” Twitty said.

South Aiken’s Chris Roberts (5-10, 210) burst on the scene last season, helping to lead South Aiken to a 12-2 record. Roberts was part of an explosive balanced offense and rushed for 2,020 yards and 24 touchdowns for the Thoroughbreds.

Cross High running back Nathan Walker rushed for 1,300 yards and 14 touchdowns for the Trojans while also contributing as a team leader defensively. Walker entertained plenty of interest over the spring but ended his recruiting with a verbal commitment to Wofford in the early part of the summer.

Barnwell’s Mykal Lee (6-2, 220) is a power back with great inside running ability. Lee rushed for 1,250 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. He also could be a prospect as a linebacker.

Powdersville speedster E.J. Humphrey (5-9, 180) is the school’s all-time leading rusher and touchdown scorer. Last fall, Humphrey rushed for 1,685 yards and scored 30 total touchdowns. He has received loads of interest from FCS and Division II schools and will likely commit later in the season.

Lewisville’s Quentin Sanders (5-11, 160), Dreher’s Jay Washington (5-9, 200) and Dillon’s Jalen Williams (5-11, 200) are three more running backs that will likely light up the scoreboard during the 2017 season. Washington rushed for 1,200 yards in 2016.

Bethune-Bowman’s Makiah Simmons rushed for 1,528 yards and 15 touchdowns last fall. Cane Bay’s Kris Copeland is a running back/slot receiver who rushed for 1,008 yards last season.

© 2017 High School Sports Report

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