Finding early playing time at Northwestern High School on the defensive line the past few seasons was almost impossible with guys like Dwaney Mills and Hakeem Adams surging off the ends. The two 2009 standouts both had extremely productive and successful careers for the Trojans. Even on the interior things were pretty solid with young standout Gerald Dixon Jr. holding things down at DT. Enter 2011 DE Roderick Byers who is the next player to be featured in our "UP NEXT" series.
An injury to the aforementioned Dixon however allowed some playing time for another young stud to step into the starting lineup and earn some valuable playing time. Byers came in and played well despite his youth and helped the Trojans defensive line remain a strength for their tenacious defense. Byers isn't your typical sophomore though checking in at 6'5 240 pounds.
The youngster talked about some of most memorable games thus far in his career. "My best game was against Gaffney. I had 5 tackles, 1 sack, and a forced fumble. I've had better games statistically, but I consider this my best game because this was the first game I made the switch from DE to DT. I feel like I stepped up for my team when the region championship was on the line. I had another good game against York. I had 6 tackles and a sack and only played 2 series."
Coming into the season Byers was on the JV squad and wasn't thinking too much about playing time considering the stars ahead of him on the depth chart on the varsity team. "I didn't really care too much about playing time although I did want the experience. I wanted the seniors to have every chance they could to get into college so I didn't wanna play too much. I have 2 more years so I worked hard in practice to get ready for next season. I was an 8 quarter player last year so another goal was to win the region on JV. We got there but lost the region championship to Gaffney. That was the week I started for varsity and didn't get to play for the JV."
With Mills and Adams graduating much of the weight will fall on the shoulders of Byers and Dixon to take over for the Trojans defensively. Is Byers up for the challenge of becoming a leader next season? "Yes sir! The seniors were the energy in our locker room and I'm looking forward to being the same next season. Hakeem Adams likes to joke around with me about that a lot saying I better not make his jersey number look bad next season. (Byers is switching from #91 to #90 next season) He does a good job encouraging me though as well as the other seniors."
Byers despite limited playing time managed to have some decent statistics. "I ended up with 29 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble,and 2 sacks on the varsity level."
Talking about improving to get ready for next season Byers talked about his strengths and weaknesses at this point in his career. "I'd say I'm pretty good as a pass rusher, have good strength, speed, technique, leverage, and knowledge of the game. It wouldn't hurt if I had better leverage getting off the block. I'd also like to improve my strength and speed. My technique is good but I'll work on getting my hands inside more. My coaches see my potential and are pushing me to get better."
The Trojans made it to the 4A Division 2 state championship game where they played crosstown rivals South Pointe. Although they came up on the wrong end of the deal Byers had a bright outlook on things. "Playing with the group that we had was a blessing. Although we lost on the scoreboard we won on the field. On the field we fought together, trained, and took care of one another. Even though we came short of being state champs, I wouldn't trade the season we had for an undefeated one. Losing movitated everybody not just to become better players but also better men. Nobody likes it but I feel losing and handling adversity is what builds character in a team. We're wasting no time. We were back in the weightroom the following week."
Still early in the recruiting process apparently some schools have already starting sending Byers some questionaires and literature. "I have letters from a few colleges but my coach hasn't given them to me yet. South Carolina would be number one and Clemson not too far behind. I like Georgia and Florida State as well." Byers also already has an idea of what he'd like to pursue while in college as well on the academic side of things. "My college choice will come down to which one offers the best courses for whatever I decide to major in. Clemson is starting to catch my attention because they have a really solid engineering program."
As for next season Byers had this to say, "I would like to be one of if not the best DE in the state, but none of that really matters if we don't win so my ultimate goal is to help my team win to the best of my ability."
Stay tuned for more updates concerning Roderick Byers right here with SCPrepNation.com, your #1 source for everything when it comes to South Carolina high school football and basketball recruiting!
Inside The Numbers...Roderick Byers
Bench press max: 285 pounds
Squat max: 465 pounds
Power clean: 250 pounds
Fastest 40 time: 4.8 seconds