RivalsHigh.com has begun its 2010 countdown, ranking the teams from No. 1 through No. 100.
We started at No. 100 on July 26 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: Rush Propst LAST SEASON: 11-3 FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 9 in Georgia
KEEP AN EYE ON: The first season for coach Rush Propst to be coaching his team. This is the coach's third year at Colquitt, meaning this senior class has only known his style as a varsity coach. Think Propst isn't making a difference? The team was 2-8 the year before he took over. It went 4-6 in his first season and 11-3 in his second. Now, the expectations are starting to kick in.
STRENGTH: This is an offensively-led team according to Propst, and the numbers bear that out as well. The Packers bring back nine starters on offense, only losing what Propst called "one pretty good receiver." The offensive line will be big, physical and experienced, with seniors at left tackle, left guard, and right guard joined by one of the best junior true centers in the state, Bryce Giddens, and a junior tackle, Preston Mobley.
STAR OF THE SHOW: The highest-ranked prospect on the team is Rivals.com three-star offensive lineman Xzavier Ward, but the star this season could very well be the quarterback, Tyler Brown. Brown now has 16 starts under his belt and a lot of weapons back. That is a healthy combination to becoming a major prospect.
NOT ALONE: If Brown is going to be successful, he will need to rely on the players around him. Colquitt County has a very good junior tight end in Ty Smith, a 6-foot-3 wide receiver in Octavious Little, and a third wide receiver who doubles as the backup quarterback in Clay Cooper to turn to in the passing game. The team also returns both running backs, Tevin King and De'Amonte Ridley. And while not on the two-deep at any one position, Propst singled out Blake Stamp as a player who will contribute all over the field.
QUOTABLE: "You can not end the season on top if you don't believe you can get there," Propst said. "Coaches who tell you they don't look at preseason rankings are liars. We all want that ranking and are working for those accolades. If nothing else, it shows your team that there are people paying attention and have expectations on you."
Top 100 countdown
No. 34 The Woodlands, Texas
COACH: Mark Schmid LAST SEASON: 11-1 FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 26 in Texas
KEEP AN EYE ON: How the Highlanders replace the quarterback position. The team will most likely not ask whoever wins the starting spot to win too many games for it, but it will need to be able to throw the ball when needed. The early candidate for the job is Joseph Schneider. Schneider, in limited action last season, completed 18-of-25 passes for 299 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions. While the sample size is small, he looks to have a command of the offense.
STRENGTH: The running game will definitely be the Highlanders' bread and butter. The team returns 6-foot-1 running back Daniel Lasco - who piled up 1,572 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns last season - to the backfield. Those numbers are expected to improve dramatically as the team lost receiver Randy Knust to Arizona State. Helping Lasco gain yards on the ground will be two all-district offensive linemen, Colin Burton and Riley Donovan.
OUT OF CONFERENCE: Last season, The Woodlands put itself on the path to gaining more respect with an early season win over Katy (Texas) High. The team will look to do the same with another Week Two game this year, but this time against Missouri City (Texas) Fort Bend Hightower. The Highlanders will open their season with a game against Monterrey (Mexico) Prepa Tech. Prepa Tech visited Allen (Texas) High last year and was reasonably competitive, losing 35-21.
UNDERRATED: It is hard to underrate a player who is committed to a Big Six conference school, but The Woodlands defensive end/tight end Michael Cooper is not a guy who sees his fair share of headlines. The 6-foot-5 player is one of the most underrated players in District 14, let alone the state of Texas or nationally. He is already committed to Arizona and looks to cause plenty of disruption on the defensive line in 2010.
Top 100 countdown
No. 33 Mullen, Colorado
COACH: Dave Logan LAST SEASON: 14-0, Colorado Class 5A State Champs FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 21 in RivalsHigh Top 100
KEEP AN EYE ON: How much better the defense gets this season. Mullen allowed one of the lowest point totals of any team in the country last year - only 80 in 14 games - and it could be much better this year. The competition in Colorado should be a little more challenging this year as well, which will make a repeat of the state title more impressive.
STRENGTH: This season, Mullen looks like a West Coast version of Cincinnati (Ohio) St. X at its linebacking core. Three of the team's backers will be headed to Division I schools and they all love to hit. Leilon Willingham is the headliner of the group. The four-star recruit checks in at 6-foot-2 and 240 pounds, is already built like a full grown man and can still get better. Alongside Willingham is three-star Brady Daigh. The Colorado commit plays bigger than his 6-foot-2, 220 pound frame - which is not exactly small. His nose for the ball is one of his biggest strengths. Last but not least is Connor Healy. The 5-foot-11 206-pounder plays in the mold of Zach Thomas or Dat Nguyen with a heads-up intensity and ability to drop back into coverage.
STAR OF THE SHOW: Despite all of the stars on defense, the focus of the team will actually be on the offensive side of the ball as Adonis Ameen-Moore will have to carry a bigger load in 2010. Ameen-Moore already has piled up more than 3,000 yards in his high school career and could come close to 2,000 this season alone if the Mustangs need him to. Ameen-Moore is 5-foot-10 and over 215 pounds. His power running game has drawn offers from teams all over the country.
REPLACING SOME STARS: While this team has a ton of talent and could improve over last year's performance, there are two key losses that could be tough to overcome for Mullen. On the defensive side of the ball, Nduka Onyeali was one of the best players in the nation in 2009. Offensively, Jonny Miller was a three-and-a-half-year starter at Mullen and will be hard to replace from a leadership standpoint. Both have moved on to Big Six programs, leaving big holes to fill. How Mullen plugs those holes will go a long way in determining the team's final ranking in 2010.
Top 100 countdown
No. 32 Har-Ber, Arkansas
COACH: Chris Wood LAST SEASON: 12-1, Arkansas 7A State Champs FINAL 2008 RANKING: No. 79 in RivalsHigh Top 100
KEEP AN EYE ON: The battle for state perception. There are clear battle lines drawn in Arkansas as to just who is the No. 1 team in the state between Springdale (Ark.) Har-Ber and Springdale (Ark.) Shiloh Christian. Har-Ber is the 7A team that has the depth and the tougher scheduling reputation; Shiloh is the smaller conference team with the flashy players, unsubstantiated recruiting allegations and constant doubt about its ability to play in 7A week in and week out. Both teams are darn good, but this year the debate will not be decided on the field, as the teams - that share city borders - could not get a deal done to play.
STRENGTH: Last season, Har-Ber had the best defense in the entire state. This year, it may have the best offense in the entire state - maybe even better than Shiloh Christian. The Wildcats bring back eight starters on the offensive side of the ball. According to coach Chris Wood, the wide receiving core is the best - and tallest - he has had. The group consists of 6-foot-3 Brett Smith, 6-foot-4 Michael Fine and 6-foot-5 Nick Kelly. The team also returns 1,200 yard rusher Gordon Welsh and its quarterback, Ryan Luther, who threw for more than 2,000 yards.
HOW TO BUILD: Har-Ber is a relatively young school but it has its sights set high. According to Wood, it wasn't tough to lay the blueprint on the table to building a successful football program. "We are right around a lot of good football," he said. "Texas, Louisiana, [Tulsa (Okla.)] Union and [Tulsa (Okla.)]Jenks, there are a lot of dominant programs. We really just picked the best of each one and tried to make it part of us."
QUOTABLE: "People in this state know how tough the 7A West is and they have great respect for it," Wood said. "We had the best defense in the state last year so we were conservative on offense. It had nothing to do with not being able to score. We didn't take chances. This year, the team will score as it is needed to."
Top 100 countdown
No. 31 Mater Dei, California
COACH: Bruce Rollinson LAST SEASON: 6-5 FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 36 in California
KEEP AN EYE ON: Whether the production on the field can match the hype. With two prospects committed to play football at USC, there will be a lot of eyes on the Monarchs. Can Max Wittek become the next in the line at "Heisman High"? Can Victor Blackwell make enough plays on the outside? All of that will play out this season, and it will be well worth watching.
STRENGTH: Interestingly enough, the strength will not be the playmaking ability of Wittek or Blackwell - it will be the linebacking core. With Christopher Urbina, Joe Schmidt, Miguel Sandoval and Ricky Ortiz all coming back, the ability to stuff the run and blitz the passer will be key. Urbina left the team after Week Seven last year with a hairline fracture in his scapula but will be back. The 6-foot-2 outside backer is "not a happy camper when he's on the field," according to coach Bruce Rollinson. Schmidt is the brains of the inside linebackers. He has an Air Force offer and Stanford is also calling. Sandoval had a broken leg in Week Three - a loss that Rollinson said was devastating to the defense in 2009. Rollinson described Sandoval as the team's "resident bad-ass and the protypical Mater Dei line backer." Ortiz, who is just a junior, returns after gaining 11 games of experience last year as a sophomore. At 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, he could be the best of the four.
HAVING STUD PLAYERS: Rollinson has coached Matt Leinart, Colt Brennan and Matt Barkley. He now has Wittek. "People always want me to compare those guys," Rollinson said. "He is right in line with them with one real difference. He is a legit 4.6 kid. We could run a lot of zone-read with him if we wanted. When he turns and goes, he can outrun people or lay a hit. I don't think we would want to do that too often, and I don't think USC would either." As for Blackwell, Rollinson thinks he is special too. "He is one of those once-a-decade players for a high school coach. I have coached a lot of good ones, but I really don't think I have seen anyone run him down from behind."
QUOTABLE: "I think we have a lot of potential this year," Rollinson said. "We need to develop a nose guard and get some consistent play from our corners, but I don't have to worry about the backers or the offense. Having the players we do, this could be a good one."