The Missouri football team has added a late piece to its defensive line. Akial Byers, a 2017 recruit who initially committed to Alabama, gave the Tigers a pledge late Wednesday. He announced his decision on Twitter after midnight.
Byers posted on his account @akial_byers: "First I would like to thank god for this opportunity his (sic) blessed me with. Next I would like to thank my family & coaches that has been by my side throughout the recruitment process. With that said I will be attending the University of Mizzou!"
Byers, a four-star defensive tackle from Fayetteville, Ark., committed to Alabama in July 2016 but was not expected to qualify academically and instead signed with Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Byers has since improved his standardized test score and with a strong finish this semester is on pace to qualify, a source said Thursday. Like any recruit, Byers would have to be cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center to enroll at a Division I program.
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"Missouri is definitely getting a great player," Fayetteville High School defensive line coach Scott Davenport said. "I’ve never seen a player take over games at the defensive tackle position like he did for us. He made plays that you might see out of a linebacker, but I’ve never seen a defensive tackle play his with his speed, with his great hands and getting off blocks. From a three-technique he took over games at critical times for us last year and the year before.
"Missouri is getting, I was going to say a diamond in the rough but everybody knows about him. They’re getting a great player."
The 6-4, 285-pound Byers also held offers from Michigan, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Ohio State and South Carolina. In the 2017 class, Byers was rated the nation's No. 17 defensive tackle by 247Sports.com's composite rankings. In recent weeks he's received more interest from Arkansas, Georgia and Ole Miss, among others.
"Once he gets into a college weight room, I’m not sure how big this kid can get," Davenport said. "He moves well at the 270 mark when he played for us this year. He has some room to grow, get some size on him and still be the quick and explosive player that he is. As good as he is, there’s a tremendous upside in him getting into a (strength) program at the college level."
At Fayetteville High School, Byers was teammates with Missouri quarterback signee Taylor Powell and incoming walk-on receiver Barrett Banister. He joined all three in Columbia last weekend for the Black and Gold Game.
"With his grades, he had some work to do, and to get to where he wanted to, he really had to buckle down and do some things he hadn’t in the past," Davenport said. "Credit to him, he’s gotten done what he needed to get done. After he’d gotten his grades up Alabama had already signed a full class. It just took a little bit extra time to get done what he needed to get one."
Byers is the eighth defensive lineman to join Mizzou's incoming recruiting class. Rashad Brandon, a junior college defensive tackle, enrolled this semester and took part in spring practices. The Tigers signed three more junior college D-linemen and added another three high school recruits along the front four.