July 19, 2012

Familiar faces open outside RivalsHigh100

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Dallas Jackson is the High School Football analyst for Rivals.com. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

The preseason RivalsHigh 100 is set to start its countdown on Monday and there is a veritable roll call of state champions and rankings regulars that have to work back into the national poll.

For the skeptics who claim that the national rankings just follow the same teams each year there is no more evidence that each year brings new evaluations and fresh faces into the fold than the teams on this list.

Bentonville (Ark.) High and Indianapolis (Ind.) Warren Central each climbed into the Top 25 in 2011.

Phoenix (Ariz.) Desert Vista and West Monroe (La.) High claimed state titles.

None of the four received the benefit of the offseason doubt.

Being on the outside looking in is a spot that many teams do not want to be placed but with six months to go the preliminary evaluations will be scrapped to the side once the games are played.

So while the next two weeks will be spent telling you who's in the rankings, today is the day to tell you why these 10 schools were the first 10 out.

It is important to note that these teams will be put through the same evaluations once the season begins as those starting inside of the RivalsHigh 100; performance on the field determines whether or not they are the first group of teams that will join the regular season rankings once teams begin play.

But for now, these 10 teams have something to prove.

Bentonville (Ark.) High
Why it should be in: Since the RivalsHigh 100 was formed for the 2008 season Bentonville has lost a total of four games and has won two state titles. As the largest school in Arkansas graduation rarely depletes the team too much and head coach Barry Lunney is one of the best in the state. There is very little not to like about the program and a preseason ranking could have easily been awarded here.

Why it missed: It was pushed to the No. 3 team in our preseason evaluations in Arkansas and slid out at the very last minute as other teams pushed passed it. There were no huge individual graduation loss that gave us pause outside of general turnover but the team also did not have the signature returning player to differentiate itself. With games against Kansas City (Mo.) Rockhurst, Broken Arrow (Okla.) High, Batesville (Miss.) South Panola and Springdale (Ark.) Har-Ber to open the season Bentonville could be inside the Top 50 or an afterthought very quickly.
East St. Louis (Ill.) High
Why it should be in: East St. Louis ended last season with a very game performance against Wheaton (Ill.) Wheaton-Warrenville South in the playoffs and returns almost all of its starters from that contest. There is a lot of early season optimism surrounding the program and the talk is that it could have one of its most complete teams in recent memory as well as one of the best young offensive lineman to have ever gone though the school in Lester Cotton.

Why it missed: This is a lot of the same talk that has been said time and again with East St. Louis and this year we tempered expectations and will wait to see it on the field first. This is not the most talented Flyers team in the last five years but it may be the most coachable and most hungry as the team has not had the success that is feels it should have. An early season contest with a team that could be its mirror image, Memphis (Tenn.) Whitehaven, will be an early indicator of this teams ceiling.
Indianapolis (Ind.) Warren Central
Why it should be in: This could be one of the most talent laden teams in Indiana with four-star linebacker Tim Kimbrough and three-star defensive end Anthony Winbush leading a strong defense combined with a run-first offense that can grind teams down it is hard not to imagine this as a team to beat. Warren Central has been one of the best teams in Indiana during the last decade and its placement in the RivalsHigh 100 is almost an expectation entering the season.

Why it missed: Former head coach John Hart's departure made major offseason waves in the state and there is some hesitancy to jump back onto the bandwagon for preseason rankings. Admittedly, Warren Central had been one of the most confusing teams under Hart as a talented team without a killer instinct. Maybe with Hart leaving the team will keep its peddle on the gas and earn its way back into the rankings, or maybe it will take a step back to the rest of the pack in Indiana.
Lincoln (Neb.) Southeast
Why it should be in: The team returns nearly a complete lineup from its 2011 state championship winning team. Quarterback Najee Jackson and runningback Devin Washington will have plenty of support up from Landon Kubicek and D.J. Foster - who some are calling the best player in the state as a junior. The defense held eight teams to single digits and beat three of the best teams in the state to win the title.

Why it missed: There were some close calls on the way to a state title last year and there is already talk that maybe this isn't the best team in the state. For states like Nebraska that do not feature the volume of nationally-relevant teams there needs to be a clear-cut favorite at the top to be included in the RivalsHigh 100. Early evaluations of Southeast could quickly push the team into the rankings. A state finals hangover is also a concern.
Mission Viejo (Calif.) High
Why it should be in: By sheer numbers and mathematics the percentages say that the No. 6 team in SoCal preseason should be among the best in the country. The program has lost just seven games in the last five seasons and has shown the ability to make deep runs into the playoffs. It is in a talent rich area and has one of the best players in the country patrolling the secondary in Max Redfield. The schedule sets up nicely for five straight wins before a revenge game with Redlands (Calif.) East Valley. All signs point to this being an easy entry to the national rankings before too long.

Why it missed: Overall the level of team football being played in California has taken a dip the last few seasons and evaluations for the teams have come back showing grades lower than other areas in the country. The Diablos lost three games last season as well as a lot of talented players to graduation and while the record could wind up being better the team may not be as good. Even with a fast start there is no guarantee that Mission Viejo moves up in the national rankings as there are plenty of teams in California that are in a similar grade as this group.
Mobile (Ala.) St. Paul's Episcopal
Why it should be in: There is talk that this is the most talented team from top to bottom in Mobile and maybe in the entire state and in a state like Alabama that is saying a lot. The team will feature running back Jordan Huff on offense and a quartet of top tier players on defense. On the defensive line Jared Holloway and Bryan Slater each stand over 6 feet 1 and weight over 275 pounds and behind them are a pair of talented junior linebackers in Zavier Carmichael, who has already committed to Duke, and Tre Williams, who already has offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida State and LSU.

Why it missed: This was the literal first team out at No. 101 in the rankings and so there are very few reasons why it missed. One of the biggest is the level of competition it will face as its first six games are against potentially poor competition. A season opener against Fairhope (Ala.) High will be a must evaluate as the next four teams on the schedule are absolute walk over games: Mobile (Ala.) Williamson has not has a winning season in three years; Mobile (Ala.) Rain has not had a winning season since 2005; Gulf Shores (Ala.) High has only has two winning years since 2004; and Butler (Ala.) Choctaw County has not won more than four games in a single season in 10 years. Most any team could look like world beaters against that list and expectations have to be tempered early.
PHOENIX (Ariz.) Desert Vista
Why it should be in: A defending state champion that is returning five players that have offers to play at the next level is hard to ignore. Desert Vista returns a little over half of its total starters and can certainly be counted among the challengers for a state title in Arizona - which has been a state on the rise in recent years. Between Jarek Hilgers, Lorenzo Melvin, and Dylan Fischer there are three of the Top 30 players in Arizona and a core of leaders for this year.

Why it missed: Count us among the non-believers in Desert Vista. After stunningly crushing Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton to win the state title in 2011 there will be no sneaking up on people in 2012 and a repeat performance could be hard to come by. The team opens the year early with Las Vegas (Nev.) Palo Verde in the Sollenberger Classic and so it will be the first in this group to show it was underrated. Palo Verde checked in as the No. 7 team in Nevada for the preseason so a strong victory in that game could start to turn our tide on the Thunder. But we do want to see it before we rank this team.
Salt Lake City (Utah) Cotton wood
Why it should be in: Between four-star quarterback Cooper Bateman and four, three-star talents joining him on the offensive line there may not be a more talented group in Utah. Siale Fakailoatonga and Inoke Lotulelei are both Pac-12 commitments with the pair headed to Utah and UCLA respectively and Lo Falemaka and Elijah Tupai on the offensive line each standing over 6-feet-4. With just 99 teams playing 11-man football in Utah it would look as though this could be the team to beat.

Why it missed: There is a lot of uncertainty right now with the program as it just hired a new coach in late June after previous coach Josh Lyman resigned amidst allegations that he has an inappropriate relationship with an underage student at the school. Cottonwood has since hired Greg Croshaw after he coached 24 years at Dixie State College. With a talented Sandy (Utah) Jordan team in the mix and an always potent South Jordan (Utah) Bingham waiting in the wings it was hard to put multiple teams from Utah into the preseason mix.
Trotwood (Ohio) Trotwood-Madison
Why it should be in: The Rams are among the most talented teams in Ohio Division II if not the entire state with four seniors committed to go to Big Ten schools and another that could follow suit. The defense should be incredible with defensive lineman Jarrod Clements and Trey Williams-Brown to pair with linebacker Mike McCray and five-star defensive back Cameron Burrows. Already coming off of a state championship in 2011 this team could quickly make a move up the list in Ohio as well as nationally.

Why it missed: Checking in as the No. 6 team in Ohio is almost always good for a spot in the national rankings but over the last couple of seasons the out-of-state record of the state has put a damper on its perception nationally and Trotwood-Madison was the first victim of that adjustment in evaluations. The team will have a chance to immediately show it was incorrectly characterized when it takes on Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) University School to open its season on August 26.
West Monroe (La.) High
Why it should be in: If there is any team among this group of 10 that has earned its pass it would be West Monroe with state titles in 2005, 2009, and 2011 as well as state final trips in 2010 and 2008. The Rebels have become part of the regulars in the RivalsHigh 100 and with a coaching staff that has been together for many years and a headed by legendary Don Shows there is no reason to believe this year will be any different.

Why it missed: While the team has showed the ability time and again to just plug and play new players the losses on the defensive side of the ball was a tipping point that slid the team to No. 6 in Louisiana and just on the outside of the rankings. The offense in 2011 was the worst the Rebels have had in four seasons and this year it could take another step backwards.

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