The Alabama Crimson Tide has prioritized defensive linemen in the recruiting class of 2017 and the first interior pledge came in Sunday night when Akial Byers gave his word to Nick Saban. The Fayetteville (Ark.) standout, among the top 10 defensive tackles in America, selected the national champions over Ohio State, Oklahoma, Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
"Byers is a defensive tackle with a motor that hardly slows down," National Recruiting Analyst Chad Simmons said. "He is a big-bodied prospect with power and the ability to overpower his opponent, but what stands out a lot is his quickness and the way he gets consistent penetration into the offensive backfield."
Scout tabs Byers as the No. 158 overall prospect in the rising-senior class because of his balanced nature up front.
"He pushes the pocket back," Simmons said. "He works his hands and he is not only a defensive lineman who holds his ground, but he gets up the field.
"Byers hasn't received a lot of recognition due to his location and him not attending too many camps, but he is clearly one of the top interior defensive linemen in the South."
Echoing most of Simmons' comments, Byers illustrates versatility along the defensive front. At near 280 pounds right now he can be projected either inside, as a traditional 3-technique, or perhaps remain relatively trim and contribute at the next level as a strongside defensive end, or 5-technique within Alabama's scheme. The flexible forecast is something long coveted by Saban and company along the defensive front in each of the last several recruiting classes.
Byers dominated Alabama's June prospect camp with great balance, quickness, hand technique and power despite not being a classic 300-pound interior trench talent. He has great bend and range for a near 6-foot-3, 280-pounder, enabling him the ability to come down the line as well as smaller defensive ends while also helping to use speed to avoid full contact with blockers aligned in front of him.
Within Alabama's scheme it wouldn't surprise to see Byers moved around, similar to what All-American Jonathan Allen has done over the last several years at 'Bama. He came in as a five-star in the class of 2013, listed at 6-foot-3, 255 pounds. The Army All-American has added about 40 pounds since arriving on campus and will be looked at a team leader once again in 2016, able to play inside and outside depending on the situation. In the nature of today's college football, where the 330-pound defensive lineman is getting closer to extinction, players who are big enough to play in the trenches and agile enough to play in space are more and more coveted. Allen was that was as a recruit and Byers flashes some of those same elite traits.
Alabama sits at No. 3 in the Scout Recruiting Rankings following Byers' pledge.