Coach: Chip Walker Last season: 15-0, won Class AAAA state title The offense: The collection of returning talent could challenge the most talented and accomplished in the country. Seven starters are back, and all are major playmakers. The headliner is 6-foot-1, 195-pound receiver Demarre Kitt. The Clemson commit had nearly 1,200 yards receiving as a junior and figures to be back on that pace because his quarterback, Marshall pledge Cole Garvin, returns. Behind Garvin will be a pair of class of 2015 running backs who combined for nearly 2,500 yards rushing. Five-foot-10 Eric Swinney has double-digit offers, including many high-profile programs, while 5-foot-8 Delvin Weems has an offer from Marshall. With his splitting time at multiple positions, it is likely others will come in. The defense: This side of the ball returns six starters and has talent at each level. The defensive line is anchored by Ole Miss commit Chris Williams. The 6-foot, 288-pound defensive tackle will be flanked by junior prospect Javonte Lain. Another Lain -- Khari Lain -- will play down at linebacker even though he is a defensive back commit to Arkansas St. The secondary will have to replace Shaq Wiggins, but the class of 2016 features cornerback Ronnie Blackmon, who holds an offer from Georgia Tech. Why it isn't No. 1: While it likely will not be exploited against the schedule the team faces, there are questions about the secondary. The team will have to replace Wiggins and Corey Griffin, and that leaves a lot of inexperienced players in the defensive backfield.
The bottom line: The late addition of Tampa (Fla.) Plant to the schedule at least will give this team one nationally relevant opponent for measuring purposes. The team will be favored to cruise to another Class AAAA title and may be challenged only by Carrolton (Ga.) High, but that is unlikely if the Patriots remain focused. This is an incredibly talented roster that probably could make a run at a state title regardless of classification and regardless of state, but evaluation points will be hard to come by because it is vastly superior to its competition.
Top 100 countdown
No. 9 St. Thomas Aquinas, Florida
Coach: Rocco Cassullo Last Season: 13-2, won Class 7A state title. Ranked No. 26 in RivalsHigh 100 The offense: The group returns five players listed as starters, but most everyone saw playing time last year for the Raiders -- excluding the transfers -- and that makes this team more balanced and experienced than the one that began 2012 with a 3-2 record. The offensive line will feature four players who saw time in the trenches last year, led by Miami commit Nick Linder. The 6-foot-3, 278-pound Linder will line up with two-star prospects Ryan Crozier and Kai Absheer, as well as fellow senior Tyler Dever. Three-star running back Madre London will have the bulk of the carries to himself after sharing time with Fred Coppett, and the 6-foot-1, 202-pound back should pile up touchdowns. The odds are that Pittsburgh quarterback commit Wade Freeback wins the starting job, and he will have Notre Dame four-star commit Corey Holmes to catch passes. The defense: The line will be the strength because it will feature four-star Anthony Moten and class of 2016 standout Nick Bosa. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound defensive end has offers from Boston College and Ohio State, and he is said to be ahead of his former four-star brother, Joey Bosa. The linebacker group will be new, and the secondary will return South Carolina pledge Al Harris Jr. Why it isn't No. 1: The defensive unit returns only three starters and will be breaking in a new linebacker group, as well as a new defensive coordinator as former Ramsey (N.J) Don Bosco and Oradell (N.J) Bergen Catholic assistant Bill Tierney heads south. With the offenses that will be lined up in front of this team, it is just too hard to envision Aquinas beginning the year at No. 1. The bottom line: St. Thomas Aquinas has the pedigree to move up the rankings after it won the 2008 RivalsHigh 100 national championship, and it also has the schedule to climb back up. The Raiders will play Miami (Fla.) Northwestern, River Ridge (La.) John Curtis and Miramar (Fla.) High in its first three weeks, and it closes with a difficult Class 7A playoff run. Right now, it appears to be closer to the mix of teams in the Nos. 10 to 25 range than the shuffling chairs that could happen from Nos. 5 to No. 1.
Top 100 countdown
No. 8 Allen, Texas
Coach: Tom Westerburg Last season: 15-1, won 5A-DI state championship. Ranked No. 4 in RivalsHigh 100 The offense: Hold your breath here because the team returns only three starters on offense and one on the offensive line. The best news is that one of the returning players is dual-threat quarterback Kyler Murray. The 5-foot-11, 170-pound playmaker took over the position full time in the middle of last season and brought an element to the offense that Allen usually does not have with a mobile quarterback. He tallied more than 3,800 yards rushing and passing and scored 42 touchdowns en route to the team's state title. Allen will have junior Oklahoma commit Bobby Evans at tight end, as well as two-star center Tejan Koroma and receiver Cole Carter, who both return to the starting lineup, but a running back will need to emerge and the offensive line will have to come together quickly. The defense: This is the reason Allen remained the top team in Texas because the Eagles return seven starters and four of those players are committed to FBS programs. The linebacker group is the heart of the team with Arizona State pledge Christian Sam and Oklahoma commit Tay Evans leading junior contributor Zack Bishop. The secondary features Northern Illinois cornerback commit Mayomi Olootu and Baylor pledge Chad Adams who had nearly 100 tackles last season and scored three touchdowns. Why it isn't No. l: There is simply no way to justify a team being put atop the national rankings with only one offensive lineman returning -- and it was hard to have it tops in Texas without a running back in the fold. The defense is strong enough to stop the run and defend the pass, and that makes the middle of the top 10 a position that feels comfortable. Allen has depth that other programs do not. It is one of the largest schools in a talent-rich area, and last year the team returned only five starters total and went on to win states. The bottom line: The offense will have no time to get into a groove because the season opens with Southlake (Texas) Carroll on the road. Last season Allen spoiled the preseason top 10 ranking for the Dragons, and this year it could be a flipped script. The second game of the season is against a potent Cedar Hill (Texas) High, and the fifth is against Coppell (Texas) High, which downed Allen in overtime to cost the Eagles an argument for the national title. The way the playoff brackets fall could make the run to a state title a little easier because the program could avoid Euless (Texas) Trinity, Soutlake Carroll, Coppell, DeSoto (Texas) High or Arlington (Texas) Bowie until the semifinals.
Top 100 countdown
No. 7 Serra, California
Coach: Scott Altenberg Last season: 14-2, won Division II Bowl title. Ranked No. 33 in RivalsHigh 100 The offense: The team boasts a lot of talent at the skill positions with a pair of BCS-level receivers in UCLA commit Jordan Lasley and three-star performer Gregory Webb. Five-star defensive back Adoree' Jackson has spent time this summer working in with the group, as well as running back, and could be another dangerous weapon. Boise State pledge Jalen Greene stands tall at 6-foot-3, 188 pounds, and the three-star quarterback should improve on his 2,400-yard 25-touchdown effort of last season. The major question marks are the offensive line, which returns just two players, and running back, where Malik Roberson went down with a knee injury this spring. The defense: This side returns eight starters and has talented senior leadership at each level. The highlight -- if Jackson moves to offense -- will be four-star linebacker Dwight Williams. The 6-foot-1, 212-pound prospect has improved each season and will be a leader this year. The defensive line has 6-foot-4, 225-pound end Olajuwon Tucker, and the secondary can be filled with three-star Glen Ihenacho if Jackson moves to running back. The class of 2015 boasts 6-foot-5, 269-pound defensive lineman Rasheem Green and 6-foot-3, 207-pound linebacker John Houston who both will see the field almost every down. Altenberg also has a class of 2016 linebacker with a Florida State offer in 6-foot-1, 205-pound prospect Blake Walls, who may be better than the older two. Why it isn't No. 1: The history of RivalsHigh 100 winners is loaded with teams that had experienced offensive lines, and that is the major hole for Serra entering this year. There is talent all over the roster, but the teams ahead of Serra return a lot of talent on defense and that could have a slowing effect on this unit. The bottom line: The schedule isn't impressive, but that could be because no one wants to play Serra. It will have respectable names such as Mesa (Ariz.) Desert Ridge, Oceanside (Calif.) High and Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame, as well as a revenge game against what will be a down Harbor City (Calif.) Narbonne team. The playoff path likely will involve a trip to the CIF Bowl. Depending on how things shake out, it could play for an Open Division Title, which would mean adding games against a PAC5 winner and NorCal powerhouse Concord (Calif.) De La Salle.
Top 100 countdown
No. 6 John Curtis, Louisiana
Coach: J.T. Curtis Last season: won Class 2A state title. Named RivalsHigh 100 National Champion
The offense: Curtis returns only four starters, but most players saw major time as the Patriots emptied the bench in several contests. Not counted in the returning starter numbers are junior quarterback Abby Touzet, who led the team to a state title as a freshman but was a backup last season, and three-star running back George Moreira and two-star running back Raekwon James, who each played behind a trio of FBS-level prospects in 2012. Brandon Porter signed with San Diego State, Tevin Horton with Louisiana-Monroe and Sherman Badie with Tulane. Among those who count is wide receiver Malachi Dupre who is a four-star prospect and in discussions to make a major move up the Rivals100 presented by Under Armour based on his summer camp performances. Alongside Dupre is Houston pledge Henry Smith, who at 6-foot-2 gives the program another passing threat although it will still run its traditional veer offense. The defense: It brings back seven starters, but again all 11 taking the field will be experienced in game situations. The secondary is likely the strong point because it features three-star Terrence Alexander, two-star Martrell McGraw, senior Prine Lewis and class of 2015 safety Hunter Dale, who has offers from Arizona State, Florida and Tulane. The linebacker unit will be led by the team's emotional buoy, Kenny Young. The four-star prospect is ranked inside the Rivals250 and at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds is a ferocious hitter. Why it's not No. 1: Curtis was in the discussion to start at the top of the rankings. Each of the team's ranked No. 6 and higher was given serious consideration. The losses on the offensive line of Anthony Taylor and Brandon Godfrey were hard to overlook, as was the loss of linebackers Duke Riley to LSU and Eric Thomas to Tulane. The defense was among the best in the nation last season, and those players had a lot to do with that because the speed of the linebacker group kept big plays from happening. The teams ahead of Curtis project to have better defenses, and that is what wins state and national titles.
The bottom line: John Curtis opens with four nationally ranked opponents in five weeks: Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic, Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas, New Orleans (La.) Edna Karr and New Orleans (La.) St. Augustine. St. Thomas Aquinas and Edna Karr are top 10 programs with high expectations. Louisiana also voted to go to an elite and non-elite state title format, which could add better playoff games to the resume. With the talent on the roster, there is a real possibility of the first repeat RivalsHigh 100 national champion.