Dylan Moses was one of the most coveted high school football players in the country long before he came to Bradenton to play his senior season at IMG Academy. Before his eighth-grade year in Baton Rouge, La., Louisiana State came calling. A few months later, Alabama followed suit.
He’s already in Tuscaloosa, Ala., getting ready for his freshman season with the Crimson Tide, but on Feb. 5 he’ll be recognized with one of high school football’s most prestigious honors. The linebacker will officially be recognized as Parade’s national player of the year and become IMG’s first Parade High School All-American for football.
“If you look at recent history, one of the most highly acclaimed early, so to speak, kids that I had ever heard of,” Ascenders head coach Kevin Wright said. “He’s had all these different accolades and I think that the first impression of Dylan, when you first meet him, is he’s just this quiet, very humble kid to the point where he’s one of those guys who seems a lot older than what he is, just in regards to maturity.”
Moses, who also played a bit of running back at IMG, is ranked No. 13 in the country among seniors by 247sports.com’s composite rankings and ranked No. 3 in Florida. During his lone year with the Ascenders, Moses anchored the defense with 106 total tackles, eight tackles for a loss, two sacks, a forced fumble and five passes defended.
He spent roughly one year at the academy, arriving in Manatee County last January. Starting as an inside linebacker for the Ascenders, Moses earned the high school Butkus Award, set the Under Armour All-American Game’s solo tackles record and enrolled at Alabama early.
Wright paints Moses as something of a trendsetter. It’s never too unusual for college basketball programs to extend scholarship offers to middle school athletes. As a football player, though, Moses was unique. Even so, Wright said, Moses didn’t have an ego and became a tone-setter during offseason workouts.
“It’s hard to handle adversity, but sometimes it’s even more difficult when you’re 16, 17 years old to handle success,” Wright said. “Surprised might be the word, but I guess pleasantly surprised is an even better description with regards to who he was.”
This past fall was the first time Moses was able to commit solely to playing linebacker. He seldom left the field when he was playing for University Lab in Louisiana and a full year of nothing but linebacker with the Ascenders elevated Moses’ already remarkable instincts.
Wright served as a coach during the Under Armour Game where Moses was playing. The December practices explicitly banned players from blitzing and that meant offensive coaches were complaining about Moses. He was in the backfield quicker than they anticipated, and the offensive staff tried to call him out.
“Moses isn’t blitzing,” Wright said. “Moses is reading the play.”
“That’s just how fast he reacts,” Wright added. “Once he’s able to react, he reads the play.”
With the Crimson Tide, Moses will follow a long tradition of elite linebackers. He’s viewed by most as an outside linebacker at the next level, and at 6 feet, 3 inches and 235 pounds he should have a chance to contribute immediately.
“He’s a very physically explosive kid, really off the charts as far as the measurables physically — size, speed, jumping ability, strength — all those things, but his ability to react and just do that in an instant, you saw that early,” Wright said.
He didn’t go from a player worth targeting in middle school into one of the best seniors in the nation on potential alone. It needs to be combined with work ethic. Then he can achieve all of his goals.
“A place like Alabama scares off the cowards and the ones who just want to have fun in college, those kinds of guys that you can’t tell anything to,” Moses said in a release sent out by Parade. “Some people stop working when they get to college, thinking they’ve made it. But me? I have a fire and a drive, and I can’t wait to have the coaches push me every day, getting to play against those great players.”