August 4, 2013

Preseason RivalsHigh 100: Teams 40-36

MORE: Nos. 45-41 - Nos. 50-46 - Nos. 55-51 - Nos. 60-56 - Nos. 65-61 - Nos. 70-66 - Nos. 75-71 - Nos. 80-76 - Nos. 85-81 - Nos. 90-86 - Nos. 95-91 - Nos. 100-96
Dallas Jackson discusses the RivalsHigh 100 on Yahoo! Sports Radio

Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Email him your comments or story ideas to and follow him on Twitter. today is counting down the teams from No. 100 through No. 1.

We started at No. 100 and will release two groups of five teams per day. The Top 10 will be announced over two days, with the preseason No. 1 being named on Aug. 8.

After that, we will wait until the first week of September for the next rankings, then have them every Monday during the season.

Top 100 countdown
No. 40 St. Xavier, Kentucky

Coach: Wil Wolford
Last Season: 8-5; lost in Class 6A quarterfinals.
Key Player: Pro-style quarterback B.J. Nagle is unranked and still looking for his first major offer. The son of a former NFL player, Nagle will be in a prime position to showcase his talents this fall as, for the first time in many years, St. Xavier enters the season as the favorite to win the Kentucky state title. Championships aren't decided in the preseason, though, and it will be on the arm of Nagle to guide the team to a title. He performed well at the Rivals Camp Series stop in Chicago and showed that he has the ability to lead St. Xavier to the next level.
The Good: Not only does Nagle return but so does the majority of a massive offensive line. Two-star prospect John Kurtz is the smallest of the group at 6-foot-5, 255 pounds but still sets the tone for the St. Xavier offensive front. He will be joined by 6-foot-7, 305-pound Zane Meiners and 6-foot-7, 270-pound Austin Askin. The program can cycle in Treyveon Percell and Dekota Jones at running back to make things difficult on the opposition.
The Bad: While the offense returns the bulk of its production from last year, the St. Xavier defense will be replacing its best players. Linebackers Deonte Clyburn and Seth Combs are gone as each signed with Colorado State and Army, respectively. Defensive end Karl Roesler will also need to be replaced. That makes three key spots that will need to be filled -- a major question mark heading into the season. Two-star defensive tackle Lenny Broyles is the highest-ranked player on that side of the ball. If St. Xavier is going to keep up with some of the teams on its schedule, the team's linebacker situation will need to be sorted out.
The Bottom Line: The St. Xavier football had a resurgent season in 2012 even if the record does not indicate it. The group grew together and played well in most every game. This year, with a new head coach on the sideline and a new starting quarterback in the huddle, the program will have to prove itself again to some degree. Games with Lexington (Ky.) Catholic, Bowling Green (Ky.) High, Cincinnati (Ohio) Moeller, Louisville (Ky.) Trinity and Cincinnati (Ohio) St. Xavier will all be battles but, for the first time in several years, this program should be favored in almost all of them.

Top 100 countdown
No. 39 Apopka, Florida

Coach: Rick Darlington
Last Season: 14-2; won Class 8A state title. Ranked No. 86 in RivalsHigh 100.
Key Player: Three-star, dual-threat quarterback Zack Darlington is the son of the Apopka's head coach, the leader of the offense and a real talent. He threw for over 1,700 yards, rushed for another 700 and led Apopka to a state title last season. He has already committed to Nebraska and therefore won't have the distraction of a major recruitment hanging over his head this fall. He also has all of his prime targets returning from last year and a big offensive line in front of him. All signs point to another stellar season as the team looks to repeat as champions.
The Good: Darlington and the returning talent on offense get most of the press, but Apopka's defensive line deserves a lot of attention as well. The group has three really good players with similar builds that can make it tough on opposing offensive lines. Two-star Eric Jackson is the highest rated of the trio but the 6-foot-1, 231-pound players has help. Lining up alongside him will be 6-foot-3, 225-pound Isaiah Buehler and 6-foot, 243-pound Anthony Ellis. All are receiving varying levels of recruiting attention but there's nothing uncertain about how disruptive they each can be on the football field.
The Bad: The team returns 17 starters from last year, including almost its entire defense. How can that be bad? Well, Apopka was pretty bad on defense last season. It allowed 20 points per game, including four games in which it allowed 28 or more points. The starting secondary returns intact with Rakleem Smith, Robert Thomas, J.J. Simmons and Ben Bascom but it will need to perform better than it did last season.
The Bottom Line: Apopka opens its season with a game against nationally ranked Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes on the road and that squad be a major test. Outside of that, the Blue Darters will not see a strong test until the postseason. Almonte Springs (Fla.) Lake Brantley and Orlando (Fla.) Olympia could provide a challenge but if Apopka is going to finish in the top 25 it should dispatch both of those two teams.

Top 100 countdown
No. 38 University School, Florida

Coach: Roger Harriott
Last Season: 12-0; won Class 3A state championship. Ranked No. 11 in RivalsHigh100.
Key Player: Despite an impressive senior class, the pressure is still on junior running back Jordan Scarlett to be the difference maker for the Suns. The 5-foot-11, 200-pound prospect already has offers from major college programs and burst onto the scene as a sophomore by helping University School defeat Trotwood (Ohio) Madison in an early season contest. Scarlett ended the season with just under 1,400 yards and 22 touchdowns and he figures to be a major player this year and a prized recruit when he is a senior.
The Good: There are few high school head coaches in the country that can say he has FBS-level prospects on his second-team, but Harriott can do just that. Two-star running back Lajuan Hunt is getting plenty of offers himself despite Scarlett getting the bulk of the team's carries. With that duo in the backfield, quarterback Sean White (committed to Auburn) and a trio of FBS-level receivers, the University School offense is loaded. Chris Taylor has committed to Duke, three-star Emmauel Soto has yet to announce his decision as has Jarius Brown.
The Bad: Even with a loaded rosters there are still holes to fill and most of those are on defense. The linebacking corps was hit the hardest by graduation as three starters signed with FBS programs. The secondary is replacing two starters as well, and the team's defensive line will feel the departure of LSU-bound Maquedius Bain. Four-stars Quincy Wilson and Richard Yeargin III will fill in but there is more to plug.
The Bottom Line: University School's roster is talented enough to climb to the top of the national rankings but it will be a challenge to get there. Games with Miami (Fla.) Norland, Weston (Fla.) Cypress Bay, Lauderdale Lakes (Fla.) Boyd Anderson, Belle Glade (Fla.) Glades Central, Brandenton (Fla.) Manatee and Miami (Fla.) Central all loom large on the schedule but are all fantastic opportunities for signature wins. For a relatively new-to-the-scene program, University School has risen quickly and its place in the top 25 could be secured quickly.

Top 100 countdown
No. 37 Paramus Catholic, N.J.

Coach: Chris Partridge
Last Season: 10-2; won non-public Group IV title. Ranked No. 97 in RivalsHigh100.
Key Player: Five-star athlete Jabrill Peppers will do everything for this team and is the major reason why it gets the preseason nod as the top team in New Jersey. He has been described by national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell as one that possesses Percy Harvin-like ability and a knack for elevating his game in critical situations. Peppers left Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco as a sophomore and led Paramus Catholic to a state title as a junior. He will play running back, run the wildcat and roam the secondary.
The Good: What it takes to win in Jersey -- and nationally -- is some beef on the line and this year it appears the Paladins have just that. Michigan commit Juwan Bushell-Beatty is a 6-foot-5, 295-pound offensive lineman and is joined by 6-foot-3, 288-pound Virginia Tech commit Billy Ray Mitchell. Also returning is 6-foot-4, 280-pound Alec Bowman for his fourth year with the program. The Paramus Catholic defensive line is also stacked with FBS-level players, with Iowa pledge Terrence Harris at one end and Marcus Pantoja at the other. The pair will sandwich Nick Flores in the middle.
The Bad: Is this team mentally prepared to win? It was downed 31-8 by Don Bosco before installing the wildcat and beating Montvale (N.J.) St. Joseph, 44-35. The program also fell to Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic, 35-21, but rebounded to win in the state finals 37-34. Consistency is something that is required when playing a national schedule and it will be interesting to see if this team can find it.
The Bottom Line: This is another team in the 40-36 range that has national title potential if all questions are answered. Paramus Catholic will play Baltimore (Md.) Gilman, Cleveland (Ohio) St. Ignatius, Washington (D.C.) Friendship Collegiate as well as the three nationally ranked New Jersey teams. It is 0-10 in its the last 10 games against Don Bosco and was outscored 482-24 in those games. The combination of this schedule and how the rest of the programs in the state have scheduled gives a lot of evaluation opportunities for the Paladins. The ceiling is the top of the charts and the floor is to be determined.

Top 100 countdown
No. 36 St. Augustine, Louisiana

Coach: Cyril Crutchfield
Last Season: 9-4; lost in Class 4A third round.
Key Player: Running back Leonard Fournette is easily going to be the best player on the field in every game his plays this season. The five-star prospect is ranked No. 3 in the Rivals100 and leads the way for St. Augustine. Understandably, Fournette doesn't leave the field until the game is put away. He has rushed for over 2,000 yards each season on varsity and also plays defense and returns kicks. What is most impressive about the 6-foot-1, 225-pound standout is his knowledge of the game. At the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge presented by Under Armour he was coaching other running backs in a group of four and five-star players.
The Good: Fournette is far from the only talented player on the roster. St. Augustine is absolutely loaded with players and it all begins in the trenches. Offensively, the team has Florida commit Joseph Paul and two-star Peyton Winbush to open holes while on defense the group of Texas commit Courtney Garrett, Tulane pledge Peter Woullard, two-star Tim Dawson and Marseth Andry will stuff opponents at the line of scrimmage.
The Bad: St. Augustine's talent at running back and on both lines is enough for the team to win the bulk of its games, but the production out of the quarterback position could be the difference between a good season and a great one. While the simple call is to hand it off to Fournette, there will be times when a pass needs to be thrown. The passing attack was uninspiring last year even with Louisiana Tech-bound Marlon Watts running routes.
The Bottom Line: It will be a major upset if St. Augustine doesn't claim Louisiana's non-elite title. Early season games against defending state champion New Orleans (La.) Edna Karr and defending national champion River Ridge (La.) John Curtis will be fantastic tests. Both of those teams will key on Fournette and make him earn every yard he gains, so it will be key for the rest of the offense to step up and take some of the pressure off of the five-star standout. An undefeated season -- with all of this talent on the field -- could result in the RivalsHigh100 National Title staying in the Bayou State.

MORE: Dallas Jackson discusses the RivalsHigh 100 on Yahoo! Sports Radio is your source for: College Football | Football Recruiting | College Basketball | Basketball Recruiting | College Baseball | High School | College Merchandise
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