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Alabama High School Football: Defensive spotlight

Central High School 2023 four-star CB AJ Harris
Central High School 2023 four-star CB AJ Harris (Chad Simmons /

The state of Alabama has always produced fantastic next level talent, but the 2023 and ’24 classes are gearing up to be extra special. Elite prospects are scattered throughout the state with teams like Clay-Chalkville, Thompson, Carver, Clay, Hewitt-Trussville, and Andalusia stockpiling future Saturday heroes. We look at the early season performances in the state of Alabama putting the spotlight on top defenders with Ryan Wright covering the secondary and Sean Williams taking on defenders in the box.





The highly touted defensive end has been flying all over the field throughout Carver's 2-0 start to the season. The four-star notched six tackles and two tackles for loss against Daphne and tallied two sacks against Park Crossing. The Rivals250 product has a top six that includes Auburn, Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Florida, and Alabama State. He plans to be back at Auburn Sept. 17th for the Penn State game, alongside teammate James Smith.



The former Penn State commit leads the state of Alabama with 7.5 sacks so far this season. Five of those came in impressive fashion against Hewitt-Trussville in the season opener. The talented four-star has three fall officials planned to Tennessee, Florida, and Clemson.



Eufala is off to a 3-0 start and the Alabama commitment is a big reason why. The Rivals250 talent has collected 10 tackles, four tackles for loss, three sacks, and forced two fumbles so far this season. Pierre has also returned a fumble for a touchdown and caught a touchdown on offense.



The rising 2024 talent has made plays all over the field for Ramsay propelling them to a 2-1 start on the season. Reese has tallied 37 tackles, four tackles for loss, and three sacks. College programs are starting to take notice of his talents as UCF and Arkansas State both offered this week.



The four-star linebacker began his season with a three-sack performance in Mobile Christian's season-opening win over Pike Liberal Arts. The fast-rising 2024 prospect visited Alabama over the weekend for their season opener against Utah State. Dixon holds an offer from the Crimson Tide and just picked another SEC offer from Kentucky.




Phenix City’s Central High School is coming off a 13-1 season with expectations to make another run to the state title game this fall. The Red Devils are off to a 3-0 start led by the top-rated player in-state AJ Harris. The four-star Georgia commit has been all over the field early this season ranking among the leaders on his team in tackles (12) and tackles for a loss (3) with a team-high two picks.

The Georgia Bulldogs wrapped up Harris on June 16.



In the era of big corners, Hurley stands tall. Hurley is that smooth cover corner with quick hips and a burst that helped him shadow 7A receivers a year ago to the tune of five picks. His Florence High School squad has used Hurley as a free safety at times this season utilizing his speed and knowledge of the game to help stop opposing rushing attacks.

Alabama got the four-star in-state talent to stay home for college on Feb. 2.



Coming off a 7A state championship, the spotlight is on Thompson High School again in 2023. The Warriors got great contributions from their four-star last season watching him tally 55 tackles, four tackles for loss, with two picks, and an eye popping 11 passes broken up. Mitchell is turning up the heat during his last ride with 17 stops, two tackles for a loss, and three pass breakups already on the stat sheet.

The Crimson Tide closed on the speedy corner on June 26.



When it comes to a dynamic playmaker on the field, Clay-Chalkville has one in Mbakwe. The 2024 athlete was critical in the Cougars run to a 6A state championship last fall hauling in 36 passes for 677 yards with nine touchdowns. The speed shinned on special teams taking 28 punts for 330 yards and 11 kicks for 167. With all that he can do on offense and in the return game, Mbakwe’s future may be heading to a collegiate secondary. The four-star had two picks last season. The explosiveness in his game has returned carrying a 29.8 yard per catch average covering 268 yards off nine receptions with three touchdowns in three games this season.

That proverbial recruiting fence built around the state of Alabama stands strong for the Crimson Tide. Nick Saban and staff picked up Mbakwe’s pledge on July 26.



Another big corner with speed to watch for this fall is Travaris Banks. Banks is an incredible athlete who can seemingly do it all. Playing in the 6A classification, will opposing quarterbacks challenge him this fall? Time will tell. Those who are not afraid to come in contact with him are college coaches. The phone lines blew up for Banks on Sept. 1 with Mississippi State, Florida State, Auburn, Tennessee, and Florida among the many making contact with the four-star. Being from Tuscaloosa, this recruiting race will be one to watch.

Bama hosted Banks over the weekend for the season opener against Utah State.