RivalsHigh.com has begun its 2010 countdown, ranking the teams from No. 1 through No. 100.
We started at No. 100 on Monday and will release two groups of five teams per day. Then, we'll do a daily countdown from No. 10 to No. 1. Our top team will be unveiled on Monday, Aug. 9 - two weeks from the start of the season.
After that, we will wait until Sept. 1 for the next rankings, then have them every Monday during the season.
The team rankings were compiled by high school sports senior analyst Dallas Jackson, the Rivals AMP team, football recruiting analysts and the entire RivalsHigh network of publishers.
COACH: Jim Poythress LAST SEASON: 12-3 FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 7 in Virginia
KEEP AN EYE ON: Just how many passes Matt Zanellato catches this season. Lake Braddock runs a five-wide spread offense and loves to chuck the ball around the yard. Zanellato is not a guy who will run by you - with 4.6 speed he isn't blinding - but he runs great routes and is the go-to target. Coach Jim Poythress thinks the senior can catch between 80 and 100 passes in 2010.
STRENGTH: It is quite clear the strength of this team is the offensive system. "Our five-wide is very tough to cover," Poythress said. "It isn't like many high school teams have five good cornerbacks. Heck, some teams don't have two. Having to cover five guys of any level is tough."
STAR OF THE SHOW: The no-doubt star of this team is its quarterback, Michael Nebrich. The 6-foot-1 passer is already committed to Connecticut and is poised to take Lake Braddock to new heights. With only three other returnees on offense, it will be on his shoulder and legs.
THE TIME IS NOW: The offensive line will have to do its job this season to keep Nebrich healthy and slinging the ball. Between Michael Newman, Eric Street and the rest of the group, they will need to play big and physical.
QUOTABLE: "We will be able to score, that's for sure," Poythress said. "But a lot of that is the system. But I don't even want to think about it if our quarterback goes down. We wouldn't be in the Top 100 in Virginia without him, let alone nationally."
Top 100 countdown
No. 79 Cocoa, Florida
COACH: John Wilkinson LAST SEASON: 14-0, Florida Class 2A State Champs FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 57 in RivalsHigh Top 100
KEEP AN EYE ON: How the Tigers start the season. The team is on a 24-game winning streak and they will be putting that to the test right off the bat. Cocoa will play Olive Branch (Miss.) High, Jefferson Hills (Pa.) Thomas Jefferson and Abilene (Texas) High all before Sept. 14, with two of those games being on the road. Coach John Wilkinson said that those are the steps his team needed to take to get respect. "We want to get out and get known nationally," he said. "We have to try to put Cocoa on the national map."
STRENGTH: With only one player returning on offense, the de facto strength is the defensive side of the ball. The Tigers return seven starters from last year's team and runs an unconventional 3-3-5 that is tough to prepare for and tough to block. The Tigers love to blitz and will come from all over the field. Grady Redding, a junior linebacker, had more than 100 tackles as a sophomore last season.
STAR OF THE SHOW: Tigers running back Chevelle Buie is the star of the team and the horse that they will ride if the team is to move up in the national perspective. At just 5-foot-7 Buie isn't the biggest back in the country but he can go between the tackles if he needs to.
RESPECT? Wilkinson made no bones about it - he thinks there is a natural bias against small schools like his. "We were the only undefeated state champion in Florida last year, but look at where we were ranked," he said. "It doesn't add up if there isn't bias."
QUOTABLE: "We may have scheduled ourselves into a tough place," Wilkinson said. "But don't tell that to our kids. They don't know the difference. So Abilene has 5,000 kids and we only have 980. We will line-up 11-on-11 and see what they got. We'll see what we got too."
Top 100 countdown
No. 78 Oscar Smith, Virginia
COACH: Richard Morgan LAST SEASON: 13-1 FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 88 in RivalsHigh Top 100
KEEP AN EYE ON: The new quarterback at the helm for the Tigers. Phillip Sims had started 52 straight games for Oscar Smith and led the team to three regional titles, one state title, and high national rankings. Now he is gone, and the team will be breaking in Jaylin Williamson, a rising junior, to lead the team. Williamson threw 30 touchdowns for the junior varsity team and was Sims' back-up last season, so he knows the system, but varsity is a different animal.
STRENGTH: Oscar Smith is a very deep team with plenty of returning starters. The Tigers bring back seven starters on offense and six on defense. The receiving corps is back as well as the running back, and three starters on the offensive line. If Williamson can manage the game, it could be a successful season for Oscar Smith.
STAR OF THE SHOW: One of the best in the state will be stationed on the outside for Oscar Smith as 6-foot-5 wide receiver Quina Funderburk returns. The No. 8 player in the state is down to Arkansas, Clemson, Florida, Michigan, Penn State and West Virginia for his services.
Quotable: "People think we just threw the ball all the time with Phillip. He wasn't out there throwing 40 times a game," Morgan said "We try to be balanced. We always have a 1,000 yard rusher on the team. We may have to be more run heavy early in the season, but we have some great receivers that will want the ball."
Top 100 countdown
No. 77 St. Xavier, Kentucky
COACH: Mike Glaser LAST SEASON: 14-1, Kentucky Class 6A State Champions FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 93 in RivalsHigh Top 100
KEEP AN EYE ON: St. Xavier's excellent chance to repeat as 6A state champions in Kentucky. Coach Mike Glaser welcomes back a slew of talented players, including playmakers LaMont McMurry and Daylen Hall. Both are candidates to take home district player of the year honors. "As always, our expectations are to field the best team possible," Glaser said. "We will aim for a championship but that does not define our team. We challenge our guys to reach their maximum potential with great effort and commitment."
BACK-TO-BACK? Winning back-to-back championships is never easy. However, Glaser feels his team has the talent and experience to do just that. Glaser will have to replace last season's starting quarterback, Brian Buehner. Senior Luke Brohm has a great chance of being named the starter. Brohm started four games last season and completed 20 of 42 passes for 406 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions.
STRENGTH: The Tigers' defense is always stacked with dozens of seemingly interchangeable players that keep coming at opponents in waves. The Tigers held 8 of 15 opponents to single digits in scoring last season, including a 28-6 win in the state semifinals. They won the championship with a 34-10 blowout of rival Louisville (Ky.)Trinity. Middle linebacker Devontae Beach seems to be in on every tackle. Hall and 6-foot-6, 240-pound defensive tackle Andrew Polston are playmakers as well. St. X is known to dress a college football-sized team for games and, by the end of the game, it seems like all of them will have made at least one tackle.
STAR OF THE SHOW: Running back / wide receiver McMurry is one of the most talented players in the state, and college coaches have taken notice. Last season, McMurry carried the ball 100 times for a team-best 981 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also led the team with 20 catches, 477 receiving yards and six touchdown receptions. The 5-foot-9, 191-pound McMurry shared carries with Jeremiah Neal last season. Now that Neal has graduated, McMurry should only see his productivity increase.
QUOTABLE: "We have a good chance of repeating because of our talent and experience," Glaser said. "We don't have a lot of starters returning but we return a lot of guys that have game experience."
Top 100 countdown
No. 76 LaSalle, Pennsylvania
COACH: Drew Gordon LAST SEASON: 14-1, Pennsylvania Class AAAA State Champs FINAL 2009 RANKINGS: No. 48 in RivalsHigh 100
KEEP AN EYE ON: Who will be the quarterback that will take over for a guy who threw for more than 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns over his career. Drew Loughery had a phenomenal year while leading his team to the state title, but he's off to college. Matt Magarity, a 6-foot, 170 pound junior, will get the first crack at the gig.
STRENGTH OF THE TEAM: The big hosses in the trenches helped protect Loughery and supply ample running room last season, and while some of the names and faces have changed, they'll be the key to the Explorers' bid for a second straight title. Ryan Geiger, a 6-foot-1, 260-pound center/defensive tackle, will be the focal point on both sides of the ball.
STAR OF THE SHOW:Jamal Abdur-Rahman will have to shoulder the burden this year while the passing game adjusts to a new signal caller, and this really will be his team. Abdur-Rahman, ranked as the No. 28 prospect in the state, has an offer from Maryland and plenty of other looks. A repeat of his 1,198 yard, 19 touchdown junior season will take a huge amount of pressure off the rest of the offense and keep a swarming defense fresh.
QUOTABLE: "Abdur-Rahman had one of the quietest 1,000-yard seasons I've seen a running back have in a state that loves to pound the football, but that's what happens when you have a stud quarterback," PaPreps publisher Andrew Chiappazzi said. "It's his show now, and coach Gordon has to love that he can rely on junior Tim Wade - who had 685 yards as a sophomore - as a change of pace back to give Abdur-Rahman a breather."