August 4, 2013

Preseason RivalsHigh 100: Teams 35-31

MORE: Nos. 40-36 - Nos. 45-41 - 50-46 - 55-51 - 60-56

Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

Rivals.com 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. 35 Southlake Carroll, Texas

Coach: Hal Wasson
Last Season: 12-2; lost in 5A-DI regional finals. Ranked No. 14 in RivalsHigh 100.
Key Player: He isn't the highest ranked or the highest profile player on the team but three-year starter A.J. Ezzard is a key piece to the Dragon attack. Last year, as a junior, Ezzard rushed for over 1,000, scoring 15 touchdowns and averaged almost seven yards per carry. The Southlake Carroll offense is still expected to be dominated by the pass, but if Ezzard's ability to keep opposing defenses honest may be the key to the program winning its sixth state title in 11 years.
The Good: Defensively, Southlake Carroll may be better than last season when it gave up less than 290 yards per game. The Dragons are led by their front seven which is headlined by linebacker and New Mexico State commit JB Copeland and District Newcomer of the Year, defense lineman King Newton. Senior defensive lineman Nash Dickey and A.J. Tolbert are players worth noting as well.
The Bad: The offensive line only returns one player as SMU commit Evan Brown slides down from tackle to center. The 6-foot-3, 290-pound player will be in charge of making sure the guys on either side of him are ready to protect new quarterback Ryan Agnew. Agnew is supposed to be a less mobile player than Texas A&M signee Kenny Hill -- who totaled 1,383 yards on the ground last year -- but is reported to have a solid pocket presence and can break a few plays with his legs, if needed.
The Bottom Line: No one is ever going to sleep on Southlake Carroll as this is a program that reloads year after year and seems to always field a solid offense. There are holes on that side of the ball but it may only cost the team the first game of the year against Allen (Texas) High as the Dragons are clearly the class of their district. If Southlake Carroll is able to knock off the Eagles in the opener, it could flip the script of last season when Allen dashed Carroll's national title hopes right out of the gates. Even if Southlake Carroll is unable to get that opening victory, the team is still expected to make a run into the playoffs.

Top 100 countdown
No. 34 St. Ignatius, Ohio

Coach: Chuck Kyle
Last Season: 11-2; lost in region finals of Division I. Ranked No. 48 in RivalsHigh 100.
Key Player: Senior running back Mike Vitale will be looked at to pace an offense that has typically been run-heavy. The 5-foot-11, 175-pound player will be taking over for Tim McVey who set school records for rushing yards and rushing touchdowns during his career. Vitale won't be expected to meet or surpass those numbers, but he will be the featured back.
The Good: As is typical with with Northeastern Ohio football and St. Ignatius in particular, the team's defense will be strong again. The linebacker group is one of the more physical units in the region and is led by Ohio State commit Kyle Berger. Berger is a four-star prospect and, at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, he can move in space well and stop the run. He is joined at linebacker by three-star Dameon Willis. Willis, a 6-foot, 209-pound prospect, and was one of the more pleasant surprises of the Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Amour tour. He is moving into the linebacker group after playing safety as a junior. Willis gained about 20 pounds in the offseason but kept his speed.
The Bad: The offense is worrisome as it transitions from last season's veteran unit to a collection of newcomers. The team averaged nearly 40 points per game last year and that will be hard to duplicate. Two-star receiver Michael Siragusa and Jake Helton will be out wide but the team's quarterback position is still unsettled. The Wildcats' offensive line also needs to be revamped.
The Bottom Line: There are a lot of holes on both sides of the ball but St. Ignatius won't be having to replace any major BCS-level players. This program is well coached and generally has proven the ability to reload. St. Ignatius' schedule is not kind as the team opens with ranked Birmingham (Mich.) Brother Rice and has RivalsHigh 100 teams Paramus (N.J.) Catholic, Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward and Cincinnati (Ohio) St. Xavier all on the slate.

Top 100 countdown
No. 33 Gaffney, South Carolina

Coach: Dan Jones
Last Season: 12-3; Won Class 4A-DI state championship. Ranked No. 50 in RivalsHigh 100.
Key Player: Four-star prospect Shaq Davidson has been the key to the Gaffney success for the last two seasons and that will continue in 2013. Two years ago, Gaffney was in a position to win a national title until Davidson sustained an ACL injury in the playoffs and the Indians were unable to fight off Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes. Last season, once the do-everything prospect returned to the quarterback position, Gaffney captured the state championship.
The Good: Gaffney can run the wildcat this year with Davidson at quarterback and be effective on offense. The presence of Hyleck Foster, a Marshall commit, in the backfield is another threat to opposing defenses. Hyleck shined last year as he gained 1,823 yards and scored 26 touchdowns. Davidson added 600 yards rushing of his own to go along with 900 passing, while JoJo McGill tacked on another 630 on the ground. This could be one of the most feared rushing attacks in the region.
The Bad: In two of Gaffney's three losses last year, the defense gave up 49 and 34 points. It won a game in which it gave up 35, too. This year, the team will be breaking in almost an entirely new group on defense as eight starters are gone. The newcomers will be tested early and often with Rock Hill (S.C.) Northwestern, York (S.C.) High, and Roebuck (S.C.) Dorman on the docket in the first month of the season.
The Bottom Line: Gaffney isn't going to be shutting many teams down this fall; they'll have to rely on their offense. This team will have a tough time breaking into the top 25 without some help and its season-opening date against Northwestern seems like a likely loss at this point. Gaffney's game against Byrnes will serve as a good benchmark for the rest of the say.

Top 100 countdown
No. 32 Long Beach Poly, California

Coach: Raul Lara
Last Season: 12-4; Division I Bowl game runner up. Ranked No. 63 in RivalsHigh 100.
Key Player: With six returning starters on offense, it will be up to quarterback Tai Tiedemannto sustain the team's momentum from last season. Thanks in part to poor quarterback play, Poly lost three of its first four games but rose from the ashes because of Tiedemann's ability to manage the game. The team's defense will be its strength, but the performance of Tiedeman will largely determine how successful the 2013 season is for Poly.
The Good: Opposing offenses will have a tough time throwing the ball on this team as the secondary will be loaded. Led by four-star John Smith, the defensive backfield should have four FBS-level starters in Smith, three-star Demetric Woodard, two-star Elijah Moody and 2015 standout Iman Marshall. The Poly defensive line should apply ample pressure on opponents as well with class of 2015 defensive end and Washington commit Joseph Wicker and senior Jason Fao.
The Bad: Tiedemann cannot win games on his own, and the loss of running backs Manusamoa Lu'uga and Gerard Wicks means the Jackrabbits will need to fill some holes in the backfield. Poly's offensive line should be strong but it may not make much of a difference if there aren't playmakers behind it.
The Bottom Line: It is very unlikely that this team makes it out of September unblemished with the likes of Corona (Calif.) Centennial and Anaheim (Calif.) Servite on the slate. Poly will face a stern test with Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw and Bakersfield (Calif.) High as well. The playoffs will be interesting, too. Last season the Jackrabbits were left for dead but stormed into a Division I Bowl and that end is the goal for this year.

Top 100 countdown
No. 31 Northwestern, South Carolina

Coach: Kyle Richardson
Last Season: 12-3; class 4A-DI runners up. Ranked No. 42 in RivalsHigh 100.
Key Player: There is no questioning that three-year starter Mason Rudolph is the key cog to the Northwestern offense. Rudolph is following in the footsteps of former quarterback Justin Worley and could lead Northwestern to the same heights as the former Offensive Player of the Year: a top five finish. Last season, Rudolph threw for over 4,000 yards and had 40 touchdowns versus just seven interceptions. The Oklahoma State commit checks in at 6-foot-4, 217 pounds and could put up staggering numbers thanks to the talent returning around him on offense.
The Good: While much of the offense involves throwing to spots and trusting the receivers, it is still on Rudolph and those players to execute. The group this year inspires plenty of confidence with Dupree Hart, Mustafia Love and Corey Seargent all returning as well as sophomore Cory McCrory. There are not very many defenses in the country that can shut down this type of attack -- slowing it has to be the goal.
The Bad: Northwestern's defense has been a major disappointment in the past and it needs to improve. The group gave up an average of 30 points in each of its final three playoff games and gave up 26 points or more three times in the regular season. The secondary comes back strong but the defensive line will need to dig in and be prepared for teams to come after it.
The Bottom Line: The trio of Northwestern, Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes and Gaffney (S.C.) High is clearly the class of South Carolina but beyond that it is very difficult to separate the three, especially in the preseason. This question should be answered within the first four weeks of the season as Northwestern plays both Byrnes and Gaffney and adds a contest against Charlotte (N.C.) Catholic which could be a tough test. A game again rival Rock Hill (N.C.) South Pointe cannot be overlooked.

MORE: Dallas Jackson discusses the RivalsHigh 100 on Yahoo! Sports Radio



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