August 7, 2012

Preseason RivalsHigh 100: Teams 5-2

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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.

Rivals.com began its 2012 countdown last Monday, ranking the teams from No. 1 through No. 100.

We started at No. 100 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 Wednesday, Aug. 8 - just 10 days from the start of the season.

After that, we will wait until Aug. 27 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.

View the complete rankings timeline if you missed anything | Final 2011 Expanded Rankings

Top 100 countdown
No. 5 John Curtis, Louisiana

Coach: J.T. Curtis
Last Season: 14-0, Won Louisiana Class 2A Title. Ranked No. 24 nationally.
Key Player: Running backs Tevin Horton, Raekwon James, Sherman Badie and Brandon Porter. Yeah, it is like that for John Curtis this season. A run-first team will be headlined with more running back depth than perhaps even it knows what to do with. It is possibly the deepest and most talented position group that has ever roamed the halls of the small private school. With over 500 wins and 24 state titles to the credit of J.T. Curtis, if that statement proves to be true the team could be running its way to a national title.
The offense returns eight starters but may have a quarterback battle brewing. Abby Touzet led the team to a state title last season, but Patrick Morton returns from an injury. It is an incredible problem to have for any football team as Curtis returns three starters on the offensive line, has upwards of six capable running backs and two quarterbacks that have state finals experience. The expectations are through the roof in the New Orleans suburbs and maybe the hardest thing to manage will be meaningful playing time as there could be numerous blowouts along the way to a state title.
The defense returns seven starters and it is the entire back seven that returns. The secondary features Terrence Alexander, Richard Allen and Jacolby Cooper while the linebackers are paced by Duke Riley and Eric Thomas. The real test will be on the defensive line where the Patriots are replacing Torey Bell, Dillon Gordon, and Chris Lorden. While it may not be strongly tested in the Class 2A regular season schedule, its out-of-state game with Tampa (Fla.) Plant will certainly give that front a test.
It's not No. 1 because the defensive line is entirely new and untested. Surely some of the players who will step in saw time last season as the Patriots do a good job of pulling starters and not embarrassing opponents, but none of these players are of the caliber of Bell and Gordon. There is little not to like about Curtis but it certainly has a major flaw in the trenches.
The bottom line is Curtis can win a national title this year with a signature win and some outside help. It will need to beat Tampa (Fla.) Plant with some decisiveness and then have Plant go on and perform well in Florida. This could become a strength of schedule situation because there are some talented teams behind Curtis that could just as easily make a jump as Curtis is to climb. There is a lot of evaluations to be made and this team has holes that need to be filled. The rest of the schedule is relatively weak and taht could hold the rankings back. 

Top 100 countdown
No. 4 Grayson, Georgia

Coach: Mickey Conn
Last Season: 15-0, Georgia Class AAAAA Champions. Ranked No. 4 nationally.
Key Player: Defensive end Robert Nkemdiche. The nation's No. 1 player will again be asked to be a disruptive force on the defensive side of the ball as well as be a short yardage, goal line running back for the Rams. The attention that comes with being the highest ranked prospect as well as being part of a top ranked team could be something that distracts the team but throughout the summer, Nkemdiche and his teammates have said and done almost all of the right things.
The offense returns five players but loses possibly the best quarterback in the short history of the school in Nick Shuessler. While the offense is certainly still going to be heavily run based, it could be hard to replace at least the threat of a pass. Schuessler threw for just under 150 yards per contest last season but that is leaps and bounds ahead of the quarterbacks that the program previously had. Wayne Gallman expects to see a lot of time in the backfield and has goals of over 1,000 yards rushing this year. Nkemdiche is a player that will be used to move the chains much the same way he was last season.
The defense returns 10 starters from last season and could prove to be the best defense in the country. It shutout six opponents in 2011 and held four others to just seven points, so getting onto the scoreboard could be tough for anyone. Defensive backs David Kamara and Ryan Carter will make it tough for teams to pass the ball while the defensive line with Jack Banda will put pressure on the running game. There may not be a better collection of players returning in the country.
It's not No. 1 because that offense could cost the team. There have been other seasons where Grayson has had the talent on defense but was betrayed by an offense that just could not get the ball into the endzone and that is the concern this year. If the quarterback position is not settled and solid, there are enough teams in Georgia that can put a couple touchdowns on the board and make the Rams drive the ball.
The bottom line is Grayson could push for a national title by going undefeated. The team could also lose an early season game to Miami (Fla.) Central and be defeated by any one of four Georgia teams in the playoffs. The season will have to play out before anything is determined for a final ranking but this has a lot of familiar feelings to the Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco team of last year where the defense was so good it could mask an average to below average offense yet still fall short of a national title.

Top 100 countdown
No. 3 Manatee, Florida

Coach: Joe Kinnan
Last Season: 13-2, Won Florida Class 7A Championship. Ranked No. 11 nationally.
Key Player: Quarterback Cord Sandberg. Seemingly at Manatee forever, Sandberg will enter his senior season with plenty of big game experience and that should help this team as it will have plenty of them this fall. The Mississippi State commit threw for over 2,000 yards as a junior and rushed for 800 more, scoring 29 total touchdowns. He has been asked to manage games, win games and everything in between so there is little that the three-year starter has not seen on the high school football field. That will be a major advantage entering the season.
The offense returns six players including running back and receiver Anthony Lauro. The three-star back piled up 600 yards rushing last year as well as 600 yards receiving and he figures to improve on each as one of the key cogs to the offense. The line returns three starters and four player that saw significant time, which will make it a little easier for the offense to break in new receivers and wait on the playmakers to develop.
The defense returns five starters including four-star defensive tackle Derrick Calloway, three-star UCF commit Blake Keller, Marquis Dawsey and Blake Keller to form one of the most dominant defensive lines in the country. The linebackers and defensive backfield will be breaking in plenty of new talent but should be fine as most South Florida schools are rarely hard-up for talented footballers.
It's not No. 1 because, no matter the school, replacing as many skill position players as Manatee will be tough. It is made even more difficult by playing in the very talented Florida Class 7A which will test the Hurricanes in the last three rounds of the playoffs as well as with some early season tests against Miramar (Fla.) High and Miami (Fla.) Central.
The bottom line is that this team could push for a national title without playing any out-of-state games with what it brings back on both sides of the ball. The team will have to get maximum play out of its defensive line because there are teams that will test it on the outside. The team will be well coached and knows how to win. It has earned the preseason hype and will have to fight hard to maintain the top spot in one of the best states in the country.

Top 100 countdown
No. 2 Dallas Skyline, Texas

Coach: Reggie Samples
Last Season: 14-1, Texas Class 5A DI semifinalists. Ranked No. 10 nationally.
Key Player: Quarterback Devante Kincade. The Ole Miss commit had a very strong summer performing well at Elite 11 events and other camps that analysts were able to see him throwing the ball. Returning with receiver Ra'Shaad Samples makes this one of the most formidable duos in the country. Kincade threw for over 3,200 yards and rushed for nearly 900 as a junior and those numbers can improve if he is given a chance to play for a state title.
The offense returns seven starters from last year but will still be centered around Kincade and Samples. Skyline loses a pair of offensive lineman and a four-star receiver will need to be replaced but there will be plenty of replacement options. The team has steadily improved under Coach Samples and this could be the year that it takes the next step so long as it does not beat itself. Kincade only had eight interceptions versus 37 touchdown passes in 2011 and those numbers bode well for another deep run in the playoffs.
The defense returns six starters but will have to replace three linebackers who went on to play college football. Gone are Peter Jenkins (Texas), Domenic Spencer (UCF) and Nigel Robertson (Sam Houston) and with that comes questions. Fortunately, Skyline has answers in SMU commit Roderick Moore and three-star Isaiah Williams alongside 2014 standout Victor Evans. The secondary will be sound and the defensive line behind Kerrick Huggins is playing with a chip on its shoulder.
It's not No. 1 because we have heard this song before with Skyline. Talent on the roster at this school is not breaking news but getting that talent to be disciplined has not always been on the same page. Last year, a fluke turn in the semifinals could have derailed a magical season for Skyline and this year the team is motivated to prove it is ready to be state and national champions.
The bottom line is Skyline plays in one of the weakest districts in Texas and often it has not needed to be disciplined to win games by a wide margin. This year, maybe by design or maybe because no one else would play, it has really stepped up its out-of-district schedule with games against The Woodlands, Arlington Martin and Arlington Bowie before taking on the best in its district, Dallas Jesuit, to prepare itself for what a run through the playoffs will be like. If there is a team that can push for a national title from Texas it could be this one. The talent is there and the resume certainly will be with an undefeated run to a Division I state title.

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