In 2016, the state of Alabama produced as much high-level talent as they have in recent memory. In 2017, the talent levels are pretty high in pre-season and the stars will likely come out more as the season goes on.
Touchdown Alabama Magazine will begin updating a weekly list as football season goes on in 2016-2017 of the top 20 players in the Yellowhammer state.
*This list is subject to change until the end of the 2016-2017 high school football season*
1.) Austin Troxell – OT – 5 Stars – Madison, AL (Madison Academy)
Troxell, the 6’7″, 275 pound tackle out of Madison Academy has been one of the state’s top players for the last two years and has only raised his stock since. He may be one of the most technically sound lineman in this class and definitely may have the highest game IQ. His versatility makes him an intriguing prospect at the next level. His hand placement, fluid mobility and game IQ are the biggest reasons he is TDAM’s top in-state prospect.
His recruitment has come down to an Iron Bowl battle between Alabama and Auburn. Troxell is still undecided, so it will be a hard fought race and with no timetable for his decision yet, it will be one to keep an eye on this off season.
2.) LaBryan Ray – DE – 4 Stars – Madison, AL (James Clemens)
LaBryan Ray has soared up the recruiting boards in the last few months after outstanding showings at The Opening Regional in Atlanta, earning himself an invite to Oregon as well as other camps, dominating the defensive drills.
Ray possesses the great combination of strength and finesse, having the ability to move blockers while having an arsenal of moves to get around them. He has great length and frame with the ability to carry his weight well, moving fluidly. The most impressive thing is his motor, he never stops playing hard, always finding his way to the ball, very similar to 2016 commit Quinnen Williams. The ceiling is very high for Ray in the future as his recruitment has a number of teams in the running such as Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Tennessee, Oklahoma and more.
3.) Markail Benton – OLB -5 Stars- Phenix City, AL (Central)
Benton is already one of the nation’s most talented linebackers for his versatility alone. Similar to 2016 Alabama linebacker commit Lyndell “Mack” Wilson, he is an outside linebacker at the high school level but can also play inside and with his build at 6’2″ and nearly 240 pounds, his future is likely inside.
Benton can move downhill really well and already has the frame to play at the college level. He also possesses very quick feet which allow him to play with range and get back to ballcarriers. Overall, Benton is your prototypical linebacker and his recruitment, like Troxell’s is an Iron Bowl battle.
4.) Nico Collins – WR – 5 Stars – Pinson, AL (Clay-Chalkville)
Nico Collins is undoubtedly an outside wide receiver, standing at 6’5″, he can be the Mike Evans of whatever program he chooses to play for. He is very dependable because he runs a good route and also can catch the ball very well in traffic with consistent and natural hands.
He also possesses a great ability to block, something he shares in common with good friend and former teammate, current Alabama early enrollee wide receiver T.J. Simmons. A receiver that enjoys throwing blocks for his teammate is a hard thing to find these days, which is why Collins may be the total package at receiver.
His recruitment includes some big name programs but the most notable suitors for his talents at the moment are Alabama, Georgia, Michigan and Auburn. He will likely be an impact player immediately no matter where he ends up.
5.) Henry Ruggs III – WR – 4 Stars – Montgomery, AL (Lee)
Ruggs is one of the most outstanding athletes in this class possessing great burst and speed, blowing by defenders like its nothing. Although he is only 6’0″, 173 pounds he has great control and can turn to make a play on the ball. He can play on the outside or in the slot and can make a big play at any moment, making him a very fun player to watch. He also excels on the basketball court for Lee, being ranked as one of the top players in the state of Alabama in that as well.
Alabama seems like the leader for the receiver, but Florida, Florida State, Illinois and Michigan are also in play and there’s no telling what his recruitment timetable looks like at the moment but his stock can only rise as he will undoubtedly be the face of Lee’s offense since running back Damion Wright’s transfer to Prattville.
6.) Kendall Randolph – OT – 4 Stars – Madison, AL (Bob Jones)
Kendall Randolph is one of the state and nation’s top offensive line prospects and rightfully so. He is very athletic but very strong. He is an elite run blocker that moves very well when getting to the next level. Randolph gets off the ball, keeping very consistent body control.
Randolph’s recruitment is interesting, as many believe Alabama and Auburn are in the lead for the 4-star offensive tackle but Louisville has come into play and seem to be a serious contender for his talents. Him being an Alabama legacy also makes this interesting, as his older brother, Levi was a star on the Alabama basketball team from 2011-2015.
7.) Chadarius Townsend – ATH – 4 Stars – Tanner, AL (Tanner)
Townsend, an Alabama commit, is the definition of an athlete, playing quarterback and cornerback and being extremely good at both. He won’t play quarterback at Alabama but will be a contributor at defensive back or wide receiver, both of which is can play well.
He possesses good strength and plays very physically which will help him at the next level at either position he’s being considered for. At receiver he definitely is tough, getting a lot of yards after contact and with his great closing speed and elusiveness he could be an ideal slot receiver for the Tide.
8.) Tadarian Moultry – ILB – 4 Stars – Birmingham, AL (Jackson-Olin)
Tadarian Moultry, a recent Auburn commit is a head hunter from the linebacker position. He has a certain power and nastiness to his tackles to where you can almost always expect a big hit from him in a game.
He can play inside or outside but has the build and skill set to play inside on The Plains because of his range getting sideline to sideline and his instinct to stop the run. He will likely play early and often for the Tigers in 2017.
9.) Ryan Johnson – DE – 4 Stars – Mobile, AL (St. Paul’s Episcopal)
Johnson is a tall, lean defensive end with great athleticism and strength. He is very good at the point of attack, right off of the ball at great pad level on most offensive lineman. He knows how to use his length and reach to shed blocks with good quickness and balance. He also has a high motor, always being around the ball and everywhere on the field.
Alabama and Auburn currently lead for the 6’3″, 250 pound St. Paul’s product and his recruitment will likely be an in-state battle.
10.) Brian Robinson – RB – 4 Stars – Tuscaloosa, AL (Hillcrest)
Brian Robinson is a hometown kid that is committed to the Crimson Tide is one of the top running backs in the country for many reasons. He possesses a combination of size and power, at 6’2″, 220 pounds, he fits right in that “workhorse” running back stigma that Alabama has had.
Although he doesn’t have great speed, he can move the chains with the best of them after getting yards after contact, wearing defense down while playing with elite vision and balance.
His recruitment has been all Alabama, all day but he has visited Georgia and has seen interest from Auburn but has publicly said that it will talk a lot to sway him away from his hometown team.
11.) Alec Jackson – DT – 4 Stars – Montgomery, AL (Jefferson Davis)
Alec Jackson has gained a lot of attention on the recruiting trail over the last few months after a good camp showing and a solid junior season. With a great frame at 6’5″, 270, he can play defensive end in any defensive scheme.
His quickness allows him to be disruptive in the pass game and he seems to always go into another mindset when he sees a quarterback. That quickness along with his great balance also allows him to be able to redirect himself to get to ballcarriers.
He has picked up a number of big offers as his stock continues to rise. He recently picked up offers from Texas, USC, LSU, Miami and Florida. Alabama, Auburn, LSU, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and USC seem to be his highest contenders.
12.) Malcolm Askew – ATH – 4 Stars – McCalla, AL (McAdory)
With nearly 50 offers, Malcolm Askew is definitely a wanted man. The McAdory athlete is wanted for good reasons. He plays both sides of the ball as a safety and wide receiver and does so exceptionally well.
He has great speed and agility which allows him to get open as a wide receiver and also uses his quick feet to get open off of the line. Many schools are recruiting him as a safety though and that is where is athleticism comes into play, he seems to be able to make plays on the ball so easy and has great vision to read the quarterback.
Auburn currently leads for the 4-star athlete, but TCU, Clemson, Georgia, Ole Miss and Alabama are also in the mix. It will be interesting to see where Askew lands as one can only assume that the offers will keep rolling in as the season goes on.
13.) Noah Igbinoghene – WR – 4 Stars – Trussville, AL (Hewitt-Trussville)
Noah Iginohene is one of the top wide receivers in the state that nobody is talking about. This guy is a big time athlete, he is a track and field national champion in the triple jump and the son of Olympians, which one can only assume translates well to the gridiron.
As a wide receiver, he has great acceleration and speed, making him a serious threat downfield or running after the catch. Igbinoghene’s explosiveness makes him a versatile threat on the outside or in the slot.
Currently he has some big offers from Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Memphis and Minnesota along with a lot of smaller programs and interest but no official offer yet from Alabama and Auburn. If he does take the smaller route, it would not surprise me if he stood out as a big fish in a small pond type player.
14.) Kendarian Handy-Holly – S – 4 Stars – Jackson, AL (Jackson)
Handy-Holly is a two-way stud and excellent on either side because of his frame and great athleticism. He can play wide receiver and safety but all signs seem to point to him playing safety at the next level.
His experience at receiver will help him as a safety as he has the ability to high point the ball with natural hands while controlling his body to make plays. He also has the ability to make plays creating a turnover due to that great athleticism and vision.
Florida seems to be in the lead at the moment for his talents but with Georgia Tech, Ole Miss and Mississippi State in the picture, anything can happen.
15.) Kenney Britt – ILB – 4 Stars – Oxford, AL (Oxford)
Britt is a talented linebacker who plays with a ton of energy. Although he can play inside and outside, he will likely play inside linebacker because of his thick frame and his tackling ability downhill and in tight spaces.
He plays with a certain power to his game that will often cause some big time collisions on the field, a true head hunter. He does pretty well in space and can stop the run with the best of them.
Auburn and Georgia seem to be leading for Britt right now, Auburn with a slight advantage due to T.D Moultry (also on this list) being an Auburn commit and one of Britt’s closest friends. There have been many rumors of a package deal with the two. His previous Top 10 consisted of Auburn, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, Clemson, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Virginia Tech.
16.) Alaric Williams – ATH – 4 Stars – Ashville, AL (Southside)
Alaric Williams, the Auburn commit is a versatile athlete who will likely play running back for the Tigers. At 6’0″ and nearly 200 pounds he has a great frame to excel at the next level.
He has a great combination of power and speed in his repertoire that allows him to get through holes with great burst and get yards after contact. Auburn is getting a solid back that can make a play at any moment.
17.) Monty Rice – ILB – 4 stars – Madison, AL (James Clemens)
On a loaded James Clemens defense, Monty Rice is a leader and a talent at the linebacker spot. He plays very physically and really has a certain power in his tackling form that is bad news for ballcarriers. He also is a problem for offenses due to his acceleration and running ability in space.
He also has some experience on the offensive side of the ball, which could help him in coverage at the next level. Overall he has great instincts at the inside linebacker spot and will be a stud at the next level.
Alabama and Auburn seem to be the leaders for the 4-star linebacker, but Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Michigan and Ole Miss are also names being thrown into the conversation.
18.) Neil Farrell – DT – 3 Stars – Mobile, AL (Murphy)
Neil Farrell is a presence on the defensive line, whether it be lining up outside or inside, he is a powerful player to be reckoned with. He has a solid blend of power and quickness in his skill set that allows him to shed blocks like it is nothing.
His quickness allows him to redirect at a high level with great balance, making him an ideal run stuffer at the next level. He has a violence about his tackles that should make ball carriers get very worried about him breaking through the offensive line. You’ll hear a pop in Farrell’s hits nearly every time just due to the sheer force he puts behind it.
Farrell’s recruitment has not been very public but he does have a lot of big offers from the likes of USC, Clemson, LSU, Michigan and Florida. Many believe that Clemson is leading the way followed by Michigan and Florida.
19.) J’Marick Woods – S – 3 Stars – Florence, AL (Florence)
Woods, a Michigan commit, is a lean and tall safety, at 6’3”, 205 pounds, he fits the ideal frame of a safety in today’s college game, very similar in size to Alabama safety Ronnie Harrison. His length and ability to recover make him a model safety at the next level as well.
He has wide-receiver hands and makes plays on the ball like one when the opportunity is present. He has great range getting sideline to sideline and reads offenses very well for a high school defensive back, which makes it seem eminent that he has a bright future in Ann Arbor
He is solidly committed to the Wolverines and that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon.
20.) Marlon Williams – WR – 4 Stars – Mobile, AL (McGill Toolen)
Williams is a definite outside wide receiver prospect. He possesses good size at 6’1″, 185 pounds, he already seems ideal for the next level. He also has great hands and body control, making himself a threat at the ball’s highest point.
He has a great route tree, being very precise on his cuts, knowing exactly how to lead defenders and fake them out. He will undoubtedly be a red-zone threat at USC.
He is solidly committed to the Trojans and that does not seem to be changing any time soon.
At 6’4″, Hyatt is a long and lean QB with play-making ability under center.He has a quick release and can place the ball accurately but also has the ability to improvise and use his athleticism to buy extra time for his targets or to move the chains with his legs.
He is a great leader for Etowah and with some more weight on his frame seems to be an ideal Razorback quarterback and could potentially make some noise in Fayettville.
22.) Justin Thomas – DE – 3 Stars – Spanish Fort, AL (Spanish Fort)
Thomas is a defensive end with a very high ceiling. At 6’5″, 255 pounds he has a great frame to be a force at the next level. He is a smart player who knows his role as a pass-rushing defensive end, showing his athleticism is something to be reckoned with.
He is not the most powerful player but he does have great quickness and finesse that allow him to shed blocks and get to the ball carrier.
Alabama looks to be the leader right now for Thomas but he does have offers from LSU, Tennessee, South Carolina and Louisville. But as it stands, Alabama looks to be in good shape for Thomas.
23.) Malik Cunningham – ATH – 3 Stars – Montgomery, AL (Park Crossing)
Cunningham is a natural athlete, playing quarterback, wide receiver and free safety. He has the most upside if he plays receiver or safety but does have a shot to play under center at the next level.
His awareness is very good outside the pocket, he can extend and make plays with his legs. He has excellent ball skills and his ability to can make things happen off of the line in press coverage. His ceiling is high at any position he plays in college.
He is committed to Louisville but has been hearing from some other schools with an open mind.
24.) Thomas Johnston – OLB – 3 Stars – Spanish Fort, AL (Spanish Fort)
He has a natural ability to finding the ball and reads defenses well, while making plays with his head on a swivel at all times. He will likely play inside at the next level.
Auburn looks to be the leader for Johnston at the moment but with offers from many other big programs, there’s no telling where his recruitment will finish.
25.) Zech Byrd – TE – 3 Stars – Millbrook, AL (Stanhope Elmore)
At 6’6″, 230 pounds, Zech Byrd is an intriguing prospect in this class. He is an ideal tight end prospect who can catch and is used in a number of blocking schemes.
Byrd catches the ball well over the middle and can take a hit, creating yards after contact. He is a hard player to bring down just on his size alone but he isn’t afraid to run through a linebacker or safety once he hits the next level. He can be a serious threat at the next level in the right offensive scheme and as the season goes on will likely rise up this list.
Florida and Alabama seem to be the two leaders for Byrd in his recruitment but has received some big offers from Ole Miss and Michigan that could make things interesting.