August 8, 2013

Preseason RivalsHigh 100: Miami Central is No. 1

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Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Email him your comments or story ideas to and follow him on Twitter.

And the No. 1 high school football team entering the 2013 season is Miami (Fla.) Central.

This is the fourth time in the seven-year history of the poll that a team from the Sunshine State has started atop the RivalsHigh 100 following Miami (Fla.) Northwestern in 2007, Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas in 2009 and Tampa (Fla.) Plant in 2010.

Central returns almost its entire offensive unit from a year ago as well as six members of a defensive unit that showed its mettle through a tough playoff run.

To read more about the Rockets, see below.

Click to find out where the rest of the teams fell in the preseason RivalsHigh 100.

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

[ Y! Sports Radio: Dallas Jackson talks RivalsHigh 100 ]

Top 100 countdown
No. 1 Miami Central

COACH: Roland Smith
LAST SEASON: 12-2; won Florida Class 6A state title
FINAL 2011 RANKING: No. 8 nationally.

New Miami (Fla.) Central head coach Roland Smith has been oft-credited for getting Miami (Fla.) Northwestern on the path for its 2007 RivalsHigh 100 National Championship.

Smith lead Northwestern to a 2006 state title and but relieved of his duties following a scandal involving a former player -- he and his staff were eventually cleared of all wrongdoing -- and has spent the last six seasons teaching at a North Miami middle school. He was hired at Miami Central in April after former front man Telly Lockette accepted the running backs coaching position at USF.

Now Smith has a chance to claim a title for himself as the south Florida power will start in the pole position atop the RivalsHigh 100 rankings entering the 2013 season.

Smith told the Miami Herald that this was the right opportunity, at the right time.

"I didn't want to rush into just any situation," Smith said.

"The great thing is I get to coach again with a lot of guys that coached with me in the past and have done an excellent job here (at Central). I'm so proud and happy to get a chance to coach with them again."

Smith, the third former Miami Northwestern coach hired to lead Central following Billy Rolle and Lockette, inherits a juggernaut. Central has been to and won three consecutive Class 6A state finals and has not lost to a team from Miami-Dade County since 2008. The team finished each of the last three seasons ranked inside the top 30 of the RivalsHigh 100, finishing No. 8, 27 and 14 in 2012, 2011 and 2010 respectively.

This year the Rockets return 10 starters on offense and well as six on defense; they may have the most talented roster in the country. regional recruiting analyst Kynon Codrington expects improvement from Central's offense.

"Central is loaded and primed to win another state title," Codrington said. "Obviously the one-two punch featuring Rivals100 running backs Dalvin Cook and Joseph Yearby makes the offense one of the most dangerous backfields in the nation. Florida commit DeVante Phillips is an excellent receiver and very reliable in the passing game. The offensive line is very good with Trevor Darling, Michael Smith, Raul Diaz, Reginald Bain and Joshua Addison to pave the way for Cook and Yearby."

Cook and Yearby are both four-star rated players in the Rivals100 presented by Under Armour and are currently committed to Florida and Miami, respectively.

Darling is 6-foot-5, 300 pounds and committed to Miami; Smith comes in at 6-foot-3, 315 pounds and is a USF pledge; Diaz comes in at 6-foot-2, 277 pounds and is an uncommitted three-star prospect while Bain is a two-star committed to Florida Atlantic.

Returning under center is quarterback Keith Reed who took over at the position last season. He will obviously be a key to the team's success.

The Central defense will feature defensive tackle and Florida State commit Frederick Jones and USF defensive back pledge Deatrick Nichols.

Codrington was impressed with Nichols during the summer circuit but noted that the defense's key player is Cook.

"He is one of the most electric players in the Class of 2014," Codrington said. "(Cook) has big play potential and can take it the distance from anywhere on the field and is athletic enough to be an elite running back or corner at the next level."

The Rockets' discipline and kicking game are the team's two biggest questions marks heading into the season. Central was one of the most penalized teams in the country prior to Lockette's arrival and its special teams were non-existent. Now, with Lockette gone, will those issues return?

Smith brought a level of discipline with him to Northwestern that could carry over but replacing Emilio Nadelman from the special teams could become an undoing.

Central won't have much time to find answers to those questions as its schedule will offer stern test week after week.

The first challenge will be against No. 4 Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington. The Rockets will follow that game up with a road date against the 2009 RivalsHigh 100 national champion and 2011 runner-up Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco, which is currently ranked No. 83. Central will then host a Miami Northwestern team that just missed the national rankings and close the regular season with No. 38 Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) University School in what could then be a top 10 battle.

One of the Rockets' biggest games will be on the road against Don Bosco.

Bosco has made its way to the top of the high school football mountain by winning its out-of-state contests and using its special teams to earn victories against some of Florida's best in Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas and Brandeton (Fla.) Manatee.

Conversely, Central has had little success on the road, losing to Loganville (Ga.) Grayson last season, 35-3. The Rockets narrowly defeated a 3-7 Cincinnati (Ohio) Elder team, 24-21 in 2011. In 2010, the team also fell to Kingsland (Ga.) Camden County, 45-42.

All of the questions will soon be answered by Smith told that he was ready for the challenge.

"This team is loaded," he said. "I'm looking forward to the opportunity to pick up where coach Lockette left off -- and he did a great job here.

"I'm ready to help Rocket nation reach higher heights."

If it is able to navigate the gauntlet it will make for the first wire-to-wire RivalsHigh 100 National Champion since that 2007 Northwestern team that had Smith's fingerprints all over it.

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