PHENIX CITY, Ala. — For the third time this week, Alabama has added a four-star prospect to its 2017 recruiting class.
Markail Benton, the nation’s No. 6 outside linebacker from Central High School, committed to Alabama over Auburn and Florida State during a ceremony Friday at his high school. Despite being listed by recruiting sites as an OLB, Alabama is recruiting him at inside linebacker.
The Crimson Tide made a strong push for Benton during the past month. He was considered by many recruiting analysts to be a lock for Auburn throughout most of his recruitment. Most people in the recruiting industry believed that because Benton plays his high school ball 30 minutes from Auburn’s campus and one of his good friends and former teammates, John Broussard, will be a freshman cornerback for the Tigers in the fall.
Benton recently told SEC Country that on a visit to Alabama, he saw the team’s big board of linebacker targets and his name was on top. That moment changed his recruitment and Alabama began to make a dent in Auburn’s advantage.
“I was kind of shocked to see the board, “Benton said at the time. “Most people don’t have the opportunity to say they are at the top of Alabama’s list.”
The 6-foot-2, 237-pound prospect’s mother and father are Alabama fans, but that did not influence his decision to choose the Tide. But family is important to the elite athlete, and that includes his teammates at school, whom he considers his brothers. Before Benton made his commitment, he cited that as one of the biggest reasons for why he’d choose a school.
“I really want to find another family like I have here at Central,” Benton said. “These guys are so important to me.”
The Under Armour All-American isn’t much of a talker in the locker room, and that’s perfectly OK. Benton is more of a “lead by example” player, his coach at Central said.
“He’s not one of those guys that’s going to lead a cheer, and that’s not necessarily what you’re looking for in players,” Jamey Dubose said. “He leads by what he does on and off the field.”
So what kind of player is Alabama getting in Benton? Dubose thinks Benton is one of the most versatile athletes in the country at his position.
“His size, combined with his speed, is something you don’t see a lot,” Dubose said. “He can run as well as anybody on the football field. You can put him at outside linebacker and cover in man and rush him off the edge. He’s big enough that you can play him inside and have him handle the tackle box. He’s that gifted.”
Benton becomes Alabama’s third linebacker commitment in the Class of 2017 joining four-star VanDarius Cowan (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) and four-star junior college prospect Gary Johnson (Dodge City, Kan.).
With the addition of Benton, Alabama remains No. 2 in the Class of 2017 team rankings.
All rankings are provided by the 247Sports composite unless otherwise noted.
Chris Kirschner covers Alabama football recruiting for SECCountry.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play in Bryant-Denny.