DURHAM, N.C. — Duke University head football coach David Cutcliffe and his staff announced Wednesday that 15 student-athletes have signed national letters of intent to join the Blue Devil gridiron program.
The class includes three wide receivers, three offensive linemen, two defensive backs, two defensive linemen, two linebackers, one running back, one tight end and one quarterback. A total of eight states are represented in the group with six signees from North Carolina, followed by two from Georgia and South Carolina and one each from Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts and Texas.
The six in-state products include defensive tackle Elijiah Brown (Charlotte), tight end Zamari Ellis (Henderson), wide receiver Jarett Garner (Harrisburg), quarterback Gunnar Holmberg (Wake Forest), offensive lineman Maurice McIntyre (Jacksonville) and safety Nate Thompson (Sanford). Brown comes from Providence Day High School and received a pair of North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association All-State honors. Ellis, the No. 33 tight end in the country by Rivals.com, was named to the 2016 USA Today N.C. all-state first team before missing his senior campaign at Southern Vance due to a foot injury. Garner helped Hickory Ridge High School to an 11-3 record and a trip to the third round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) 4A state playoffs. He was also selected to play in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas.
Ranked as the No. 15 pro-style passing quarterback in the nation by 247Sports.com, Holmberg set the Heritage High School single-season records with 2,730 passing yards and 26 touchdowns as a senior while leading the Huskies to a 12-2 record and a berth in the NCHSAA 4A state quarterfinals. McIntyre helped Northside High School to 28.50 points per game, a 6-6 ledger and a trip to the NCHSAA 3A state playoffs as a senior. Thompson, rated as the No. 31 safety in the nation by 247Sports.com, was a four-time All-Cape Fear Valley 3-A selection in football at Southern Lee High School and was named the league’s player of the year in basketball as a junior.
Linebacker Shaka Heyward (Hoschton) and offensive lineman Casey Holman (Snellville) will come to Durham from Georgia. Heyward, who is listed as the No. 41 outside linebacker in the nation by ESPN.com, recorded 90 tackles, 5.0 sacks, eight passes defended, one interception, one fumble recovery and one caused fumble as a senior at Mill Creek High School, which finished with an 8-4 record and advanced to the second round of the Georgia High School Association Class AAAAAA playoffs. Holman, from Brookwood High School, was a first team all-region pick by the 7-AAAAAA coaches as both a junior and senior. During his final campaign, Holman was named the Touchdown Club of Gwinnett Co-Offensive Lineman of the Year and led Brookwood to an 11-3 record, including a 6-0 region mark to win the Region 7-AAAAAAA title.
Joining Duke from South Carolina are running back Mataeo Durant (McCormick) wide receiver Dennis Smith (Gaffney). Durant, out of McCormick High School, was named the 2017 South Carolina Football Coaches Association Upper State Running Back of the Year after rushing for 1,551 yards and 19 touchdowns on 159 carries as a senior. Smith, who helped Gaffney High School to the South Carolina High School League Class AAAAA state semifinals as a senior, finished his final campaign with 55 receptions for 733 yards and five touchdowns.
From Massachusetts, the Blue Devils welcome wide receiver Jake Bobo (Belmont) to the program. Bobo earned first team All-Independent School League accolades as a sophomore, junior and senior. During his junior year, Bobo helped Belmont Hill to a 7-2 record and the New England Prep School championship, defeating Wilbraham & Monson Academy 41-24 in the Kevin Fleming Bowl.
Cornerback Jeremiah Lewis (Plano) heads to Durham from Texas after helping Prestonwood Christian High School to the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) Division I state championship game three times, claiming the title twice including the 2017 crown. In his final high school game, Lewis and the Lions rallied from 18 points down in the third quarter to defeat St. Pius X, 42-41, to claim the program’s fifth TAPPS state title.
The defensive duo of lineman Tahj Rice (Louisville, Ky.) and linebacker Rocky Shelton (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) also join the Duke program. Rice, a consensus four-star prospect, ended his time at Waggener High School with a selection to the American squad in the 2017 Offense-Defense All-American Bowl and is rated as the No. 10 strong side defensive end according to 247Sports.com. Shelton, a three-time all-county selection, was part of a St. Thomas Aquinas program that won the Florida High School Athletic Association Class 7A state title in both 2015 and 2016.
Completing the class is offensive lineman Peace Addo (Silver Spring) from Maryland. Addo helped St. Frances Academy to its second consecutive Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship with a 44-7 victory over Gilman in the title tilt. The Panthers are ranked No. 1 in the state and will face Bingham (Utah) in the GEICO State Champions Bowl Series in Phoenix, Ariz., on December 23.
Ellis, Holman, Holmberg and Lewis are expected to enroll at Duke in January, 2018.