South Carolina State has had eight players drafted to the NFL since 2000. The most recent and successful Bulldogs prospect was linebacker Darius Leonard, who went in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. From walk-on to MEAC Defensive Player of the Year, CB Decobie Durant hopes to parlay his scouting report into a 2022 NFL Draft selection, joining Leonard and DT Javon Hargrave (2016 class) as talented SCSU defenders in the pros.
Decobie Durant NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Cornerback
- School: South Carolina State
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height: 5’9 3/8″
- Weight: 174 pounds
- Wingspan: 72″
- Arm: 30 1/8″
- Hand: 8 5/8″
Decobie Durant Scouting Report
Durant checked in at just over 5’9″ and 174 pounds during East-West Shrine Bowl measurements. That likely relegates him to the slot in the NFL. However, the SCSU CB spent most of his time on the outside for the Bulldogs and thrived over his four-year career.
Durant spent a year at Palmetto Prep Academy out of high school, so he is an older prospect at 24 years old. Nevertheless, his positives far outweigh the negatives.
Whether you are a zone or man-heavy team, Durant can play in nickel and dime packages. He has the patience, discipline, and tackling ability to thrive in zone. Meanwhile, he owns the athleticism, hip fluidity, and ball skills to hold his own in man.
Now, you don’t want Durant taking on tight ends or large receivers, but he can clamp down on running backs and slot WRs. He needs to add bulk (at least 10-15 pounds), but the physical tools are there. Durant’s age, size, and competition level will limit him to a Day 3 pick, but whichever franchise selects him will reap the rewards.
Where Durant wins
It’s often much easier to identify truly talented players at the FCS level. Such was the case with Durant. Turn on any South Carolina State you want, and I guarantee your eyes will gravitate to No. 14. He just moved at another gear compared to most players on the field.
The SCSU CB has a quick backpedal, a solid break to the ball, and is comfortable in and out of breaks. The smoothness in his hips is one of his most identifiable and translatable traits. Whether it was against MEAC WRs or Power Five WRs at the Shrine Bowl, Durant stayed in hip pockets and fought through his opponent’s hands.
Additionally, there were several plays on film where he simply ran the route for the receivers, resulting in interceptions or pass deflections. Durant possesses the requisite athleticism and quick feet, but not enough is talked about his instincts and understanding of the game. He routinely stays square, watches the receiver’s hips, and maintains leverage on top of routes.
Another positive aspect of Durant’s game is his willingness to do the dirty work. He flies off corner blitzes, lays a hit coming downhill, and secures tackles in the open field. Durant rarely takes bad tackling angles and wraps up with consistent technique, culminating in few misses. All of these traits are necessary to line up in the slot at the next level.
Surprising versatility should lead to a spot on an NFL roster
We will get into more detail later, but in high school, Durant played every position asked of him. He started at quarterback and free safety but also took snaps at wide receiver and cornerback. Furthermore, he returned both kickoffs and punts. Speaking of special teams, the SCSU CB played significant reps on the field-goal block unit and as a punt-return gunner in 2021.
Moreover, at Palmetto Prep, Durant shined as a single-high safety. He displayed excellent range and would read the QB’s eyes and route concepts to gain an advantage. It also wasn’t uncommon to find him flying toward the line of scrimmage to bring down ball carriers hitting the edge or finding a crease through the middle of the defense.
As far as speed, Durant reportedly ran a 4.48 40-yard dash in high school and a 4.47 in prep school. As a result, it wouldn’t surprise me if he ran in the low 4.4s at the NFL Combine.
In an interview at the Shrine Bowl, Durant stated, “Being versatile came early on. … Trusting myself but also the coaches trusting my playing style. Knowing that they trust me on a blitz, they trust me to make a tackle if it bounces outside, and trusting that if the ball comes my way more than likely I’m a get my hands on it. It’s just all about being a playmaker.”
Areas for improvement
While no one likes to speak about a prospect’s weaknesses, it’s important to note where they can improve. For Durant, the main concerns surround his slight stature. Although he has the confidence to face any man across from him, he will struggle to cover taller receivers simply due to a lack of height and arm length.
Additionally, he won’t be able to disengage from blocks as easily at the next level. So if he doesn’t have a free path to the ball in run defense, he may get taken out of the action. Still, you can never count out a player with recognition ability and feistiness.
Durant can be a bit grabby in coverage and has already been penalized in college. He will need to reign in his technique at the catch point and battling with receivers downfield.
The SCSU CB also doesn’t have much experience in press and shouldn’t be asked to do much of it in the NFL. Moreover, Durant must work on breaking down better once the receiver hauls in the pass. There were times when he overpursued the initial angle, allowing the receiver to cut and turn upfield for extra yardage. He can give too much cushion at the stem of routes as well.
Durant’s Player Profile
As Lamar High School’s starting quarterback and free safety, Durant led the Silver Foxes to a Class A Division II state football championship as a senior in 2015 — their first since 2004.
Showing a penchant for flashing on the biggest stages, Durant opened the scoring in the title game with a 1-yard touchdown run. Then, in the fourth quarter, he all but iced the contest with a 15-yard TD pass. He was a key contributor in Lamar generating over 400 yards of offense and limiting C.E. Murray (12-2) to under 100 yards.
In his final high school season, Durant passed for 621 yards and 7 touchdowns while rushing for 603 yards and 12 more scores. On defense, he generated 50 total tackles and snagged 4 interceptions. During his career, Durant earned All-Region and All-State honors. Additionally, Durant played baseball, basketball, and track in his high school career, adding to his athletic profile.
However, Durant’s lack of positional designation and light recruiting led to him spending a year at Palmetto Prep Acadamy. After settling in on the defensive side of the ball and displaying his talents, he walked on to South Carolina State in the spring of 2018.
Durant’s career at South Carolina State
Durant quickly impressed the Bulldogs’ coaching staff, earning a scholarship not long after stepping foot on the field. He immediately saw playing time in 2018, recording 38 tackles, 3 PBUs, and 2 interceptions. But that was just a precursor of what he would do at South Carolina State. Durant would develop into a lockdown corner under Oliver “Buddy” Pough’s tutelage, a head coach well-known for his defensive acumen.
As a full-time starter in 2019, he netted 35 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 12 PBUs, and 3 INTs. Then, in a shortened 2020 spring campaign (the MEAC didn’t play in the fall), Durant took his game to new heights. He generated 5 PBUs, 4 INTs, and allowed just 6 of 19 targets to be completed. His play garnered first-team All-MEAC recognition.
SCSU alum Darius Leonard witnessed Durant’s abilities firsthand during a spring game against Alabama A&M, in which the star CB picked off Aqeel Glass 3 times.
All Durant did to end his collegiate career was win MEAC Defensive Player of the Year. He produced 38 total tackles, 12 PBUs, and 3 INTs, capping the season off with the Cricket Celebration Bowl Dennis Thomas Defensive MVP in a win over Jackson State.
Path to the NFL Draft
If nothing I have said has led you to believe Durant is the real deal, maybe this will. Across 37 games, the SCSU never allowed over 100 receiving yards or more than 1 TD in a single game.
Furthermore, he reeled in 12 INTs and 32 PBUs during his career. As Durant put it, “I guess you could say I got magnets on my hands.” The South Carolina State product also earned his degree in physical activity management off the field. When he hangs up his cleats, he has said he wants to coach and build his own training facility.
Durant’s older cousins, Michael, Markee, and Marquais Hamlin, set a precedent for the SCSU CB. Michael went to Clemson and was drafted in the fifth round of the 2009 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys. They all played football growing up, and Markee and Marquais played safety for SCSU as members of the 2008 and 2009 MEAC Championship squads.
Durant spoke on their influence on his football career: “Growing up, I always wanted to be like them. … I’m just following in their footsteps as I go through middle school, high school, and college. It’s fun, especially watching them play and sitting in the stands and getting a chance to go into the locker room and see different things at a young age.
“Now things have changed, and time flies by. They come to watch me play now. So it’s a blessing for all of us to actually witness each other go through this process.”
What they’re saying about Durant
“Decobie [has] the mentality of a defensive tackle. He’s a tough guy who can get in the middle of all of the different kinds of screens and perimeter throws. We didn’t see a lot of attempts against him this past year because people got the message this might not be the guy that you mess with. … He’s well-deserving of the award.” — South Carolina State head coach Buddy Pough said after Durant won MEAC DPOY.
“He sees when the young guys mess up, and he’s not afraid to correct guys when need be. He can light up a room. He’s intelligent as a football player. He has a love of the game, and he studies it thoroughly with a fine-tooth comb.” — SCSU defensive coordinator Jonathan Saxon on Durant.
Durant’s NFL Draft ascension
Infamously, no HBCUs players were selected in the 2021 NFL Draft. However, Durant and a few others hope to change that this year. I believe Durant is a late Day 3 pick simply due to his frame, age, and positional value (slot DB). However, with a stellar showing at the Combine, including weighing above 180, he can go in Round 5.
As I watched his tape, Durant reminded me of Cincinnati Bengals corner Mike Hilton — who went undrafted in the 2016 NFL Draft. Both play with an intense physicality despite standing at 5’9″. If Durant keeps honing his craft and building his body, he can enjoy a similarly long-lasting career in the league.
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