Five-star St. Frances defensive end Eyabi Anoma loves to compete, so he looked for a college football program that would challenge him at the highest level.
On Wednesday afternoon, he announced that he would sign with Alabama.
“I just love Alabama,” he said. “My first visit down there, I just fell in love with the Crimson Tide. They compete every single day. Every single day is like a game, and I like that. I like to compete against the best. I like to push my body to the limit and that’s why I chose Alabama.”
St. Frances coach Henry Russell said the Crimson Tide program is a good fit for Anoma, the No. 7 overall player in the nation in 247Sports.com’s Composite rankings despite having played just two years of high school football.
“He kept saying, ‘I want to earn everything. I don’t want to be given anything,’ ” Russell said. “I think he felt if he went somewhere else, he probably would be given more opportunities early and wouldn’t have to really earn them. His mindset is he wants to compete, he wants to be with the best and he doesn’t like losing, and so that’s what Alabama’s all about.”
Anoma made his announcement at St. Frances during a signing day ceremony with teammates Jaelyn Duncan (Maryland), Randy Fields (West Virginia), Peace Addo (Duke) and Terrell Smith (St. Francis).
An Under Armour All-American and The Baltimore Sun’s Defensive Player of the Year, Anoma said he would play outside linebacker for the Crimson Tide.
“I want to learn that position more and be able to rush off the edge and pass rush, stop the run,” he said. “And they also have some coverage that I can play in space, so I feel it would be a good fit for me to succeed.”
He acknowledged that the new position would be a big transition.
“It always is, but you know, that’s why I’ve just got to keep on training hard and go out there and keep my head down and be humble and be open to all the criticism and what the coaches have to say,” Anoma said.
Anoma considered a long list of Power 5 programs including Michigan, Florida, Penn State, Ohio State and Maryland, which he visited over the weekend.
When he transferred to St. Frances from Randallstown before his junior year, he hadn’t played football in a while. He played youth league football, but was playing basketball at Randallstown.
Once he got back on the football field, he emerged as one of the fastest-rising recruits in the nation. At 6 feet 5, 240 pounds, he grew every game and in April was rated as the No 2 overall player among the ESPN 300 rising seniors.
His exceptional quickness off the edge and his drive to finish every play was a big factor in disrupting offenses as the No. 1 Panthers (12-0) won their second straight Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship and the first conference playoff in five years.
247Sports.com rated Anoma the No. 2 weak-side defensive end in the country after Harrisburg’s Micah Parsons, who signed with Penn State.
“I think his best quality is the way he chases the football,” Archbishop Spalding coach Kyle Schmitt said. “I think he’s a good pass rusher. I think his maturity needs to come against the run, but frankly he runs down plays, which I think great players do.
“You have a choice to run at him or run away from him and he creates a lot of problems, because when you run away from him, his pursuit is excellent. He’s probably the best pursuit D-lineman I’ve coached against in a long time, the way he chases the football downfield, and in a lot of ways, creates fumbles, big hits and momentum. We had to block his second movement and a lot of people struggled to do that.”
Anoma led the Panthers, ranked No. 11 in USA Today’s Super 25, in tackles this fall — a rarity for a defensive end. He had 98 tackles and also had 22 sacks, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries as the team allowed just 65 points and only once gave up more than one touchdown in a game.
He will add to those stats when the Panthers play Saturday against Bingham (Utah) in the GEICO State Champions Bowl Series in Phoenix. The game will be broadcast live on ESPNU at 6 p.m.
While Anoma is the highest-rated local player to sign as the new early period for football runs Wednesday through Friday, several of the Baltimore area’s other top players also signed.
The rest of the All-Metro defensive line got an early-morning jump on the signing period with McDonogh’s PJ Mustipher headed to Penn State, Gilman’s Thomas Booker to Stanford and Loyola Blakefield’s Evan Boozer to Temple.
Maryland signed two All-Metro players, Panthers offensive lineman Duncan and Calvert Hall linebacker Chance Campbell.
In addition, several local players are headed to service academies. Gilman wide receiver-defensive back Brandon Willis, St. Mary’s linebacker Timber Berzins and St. Mary’s offensive lineman Jamie Romo are bound for Navy, while Archbishop Spalding offensive lineman Cody Winokur is going to Army West Point.
Planning to sign this week
Baltimore high school football players who plan to sign national letters of intent during the new Dec. 20-22 early signing period for football.
Peace Addo, St. Frances, Duke
Eyabi Anoma, St. Frances, Alabama
Caleb Biggers, Calvert Hall, Bowling Green
Thomas Booker, Gilman, Stanford
Evan Boozer, Loyola Blakefield, Temple
Stevon Brown, Archbishop Curley, Delaware
Chance Campbell, Calvert Hall, Maryland
Jaelyn Duncan, St. Frances, Maryland
DeJuan Ellis, McDonogh, Virginia Tech
Randy Fields, St. Frances, West Virginia
Malik Hamm, City, Lafayette
Qadir Ismail, John Carroll, Villanova
PJ Mustipher, McDonogh, Penn State
Ugo Obasi, Milford Mill, Virginia
Darius Pickett, McDonogh, Villanova
Ryan Poole, St. Mary’s, William & Mary
Brandon Savage, Milford Mill, Norfolk State
Terrell Smith, St. Frances, St. Francis
Reggie Sutton, Calvert Hall, Rutgers
Isaiah Watson, Calvert Hall, Eastern Michigan
Daesean Winston, Archbishop Spalding, Temple