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.
RivalsHigh 100: teams THAT WILL START JUST OUT OF THE
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
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
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
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
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