RivalsHigh.com has begun its 2011 countdown, ranking the teams from No. 100 down to No. 1.
We started at No. 100 on July 25 and are now down to our final three days counting down from No. 10 to No. 1. Our top team will be unveiled on Wednesday morning on Rivals Radio - two weeks from the start of the season.
After that, we will wait until Sept. 5 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: Tom Westerberg LAST SEASON: 10-2
FINAL 2010 RANKING: No. 66 in RivalsHigh 100
Allen (Texas) High coach Tom Westerberg was delighted to hear his team made the Top 10 of the RivalsHigh Top 100 preseason rankings. But it was hardly surprising news.
"Everyone has us at the top right now," he said. "We are excited, sure, but I am more excited to have 14 starters back."
It was those 14 starters that helped propel the Eagles to the No. 1 spot in Texas and No. 6 in the RivalsHigh 100 to start the year.
Preseason accolades are only good for one week - especially in the RivalsHigh 100 where just winning sometimes just isn't good enough to hold your spot; with two tough tests in its first three weeks, Allen can not worry about where it begins the season.
"We have to get ready to play," Westerberg said. "In Allen, we have developed strong expectations. It is our goal to be in the state finals every year, and it is a long way to go to get there."
The team opens its season at SMU against Cedar Hill (Texas) High - a team that was considered for the RivalsHigh 100 rankings but just missed.
After a game against Justin (Texas) Northwest, the team will travel to take on No. 33 Longview (Texas) High before it gets into its district schedule. And unlike some national programs, those local games are not easy.
"Allen's eight-team district has four schools with over 4,000 in enrollment so they all have big talent bases to draw upon," Brian Perroni, Rivals.com Texas recruiting analyst, said. "Plano is always a tough team; Marcus has plenty of talent as well. The team that really could throw a wrench into things, though, is Hebron. Those three teams, along with other traditionally strong programs such as Plano East and Lewisville, will certainly give Allen at least a taste of what is to come in the playoffs."
While the demands of the district schedule will challenge the Eagles, Westerberg contends that even the hardest schedule doesn't really prepare any team for the Texas playoffs.
"You can't prepare for a run in Texas no matter your district," he said. "Our district is good, but our playoffs is a different animal."
It is a playoff path that will likely provide Allen with its toughest - and most anticipated - game of the season. A potential second-round game with No. 11-ranked Euless (Texas) Trinity is almost assuredly going to happen.
It is a game that has been played four times in the last three seasons (twice in the playoffs and twice as non-district regular-season games). Each team has won twice.
Allen's near-victory last year (a 37-35 loss) was just that, according to Westerberg.
"There are not moral victories here," he said. "We do not feel good about almost winning last year. We have had good battles with them and have gone back-and-forth."
Perroni doesn't think last season's defeat is even a marginal confidence booster.
"Allen and Trinity meet up a lot in the postseason so 'almost winning' isn't going to give the Eagle team extra confidence," he said. "With all the returning starters on the team, I think Allen knew that this season would be a big one."
Williams ran for over 2,000 yards as a junior and Morris threw for over 2,500. It was a balanced attack that Westerberg expects to see repeat itself.
"Jonathan is going to get his carries," he said. "And we will move the ball in the air. We like being balanced and having those guys actually makes it easier."
Williams, though, seems to be the star of the show.
"He is a true big back at 5-foot-11 and 200-pounds," Perroni said. "He is great between the tackles as an every-down runner. However, he has surprisingly good speed for his size as well."
Williams has been in the Allen program since he was in the seventh grade and followed his brother through the ranks.
"He comes to work everyday with a good attitude," Westerberg said of Williams. "We expect him to have a great senior year and we can truly only be as good as he is."
If Williams is slowed, it will be on Morris to guide the team.
Both Perroni and Westerberg believe the senior quarterback can do it.
"He manages the game well and most of his throws are in the short and intermediate range," Perroni said. "He doesn't force the ball deep. As long as he continues to make good decisions, Allen will thrive."
His rise to the starting quarterback was not as storied as Williams' run to stardom.
"We really didn't know what if he was capable of what he has already accomplished," Westerberg said. "We didn't name a starting quarterback until the scrimmage last year and he has really blossomed."
For the Eagles to make a return toward the top of the rankings - it finished 2008 No. 2 in the final RivalsHigh 100 - both players will have to bloom.
If that were to happen, it wouldn't be news to Westerberg, either.