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AP photo by Wade Payne / Tennessee football coach Jeremy Pruitt, left, and Alabama counterpart Nick Saban shake hands after their teams' October 2018 matchup in Knoxville.

Although the top annual football prospect in the state of Alabama typically signs with Nick Saban's Crimson Tide, there have been exceptions.

Weakside defensive end Dylan Brooks plans to be one of those rare examples, announcing his nonbinding commitment Sunday afternoon to Tennessee. The 6-foot-5, 220-pounder from Handley High School in Roanoke is rated the nation's top weakside defensive end and the No. 18 prospect overall for the 2021 recruiting cycle in the 247Sports.com composite rankings.

Brooks made his commitment via Twitter, posting "Locked In" with a "GBO" hashtag. He included Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt, Volunteers defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley and Vols outside linebackers coach Shelton Felton in his announcement.

Alabama, Auburn and LSU were also in the picture for Brooks, who becomes Tennessee's first five-star commitment since the Vols signed offensive linemen Wanya Morris and Darnell Wright in their 2019 class. Brooks was in Knoxville on March 7 for Tennessee's junior day, which transpired just days before the NCAA mandated a dead period for visits due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Brooks becomes just the fourth top prospect in Alabama to commit to a destination other than Tuscaloosa since Saban's first full recruiting cycle as Crimson Tide coach in 2008. Hueytown quarterback Jameis Winston chose Florida State in 2012, while Phenix City receiver Justyn Ross signed with Clemson in 2018, and Hoover receiver George Pickens inked with Georgia in 2019.

Tennessee now has 11 commitments for the 2021 signing class, including five from Alabama, with that quintet highlighted by Brooks and Mobile four-star receiver Jordan Mosley. The Vols have two in-state commitments, with one being Baylor School running back Elijah Howard.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.

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