RivalsHigh.com has begun its 2010 countdown, ranking the teams from No. 1 through No. 100.
We started at No. 100 on July 26 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 Monday, Aug. 9 - two weeks from the start of the season.
After that, we will wait until Sept. 1 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.
COACH: Mike Jinks LAST SEASON: 9-3 FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 49 in Texas
KEEP AN EYE ON: Whether or not Steele can really handle the move up to 5A. This ranking may be a little generous for a team whose major claim to fame in 2009 was nearly beating Austin (Texas) Lake Travis in a second round playoff game. A jump from Class 4A, Region 4, District 27 up to Class 5A, District 25 is a lot to ask of anyone.
CAN THEY DO IT? Steele is not in the most difficult of districts, but having traditional power Converse Judson, up-and-coming New Braunfels and San Antonio Wager all as district opponents will provide some challenge to the Knights in 2010. Things could be worse, but had the team stayed in 4A, it would have more than likely been a serious candidate to win states.
STAR OF THE SHOW: The star of the team is undoubtedly the Rivals.com No. 1 running back in the country, Malcolm Brown. The 6-foot, 210-pound back has offers from all over the country and has yet to decide where he is going to play. All eyes will be on him and his decision as the season progresses, and opposing defenses will be keeping eyes on him as well. As a sophomore, Brown rushed for 1,351 yards and 17 touchdowns in just seven games before his season was cut short with hairline fractures in his leg. As a junior - still not at 100 percent - he rushed for another 2,170 yards and 33 touchdowns. Duplicating that effort is expected for one of the best backs in the country.
HELPING OUT: For the Knights to be successful, they will need to find someone who can play quarterback, especially if they want to make a serious playoff run. Tommy Armstrong played sparingly in 2009 and only tallied 82 yards and a touchdown through the air. If the team can not get something going through the air, opposing teams will be able to put eight in the box on every play.
Top 100 countdown
No. 29 North Gwinnett, Ga.
COACH: Bob Sphire LAST SEASON: 12-1 FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 71 in RivalsHigh Top 100
KEEP AN EYE ON: If North Gwinnett can replace 17 starters on the team. The Bulldogs are one of the teams with the highest turnover in the RivalsHigh 100, bringing back just three starters on offense and two on defense in one of the best states in the country for high school football. The one advantage that North Gwinnett has is that it is the largest school in the 22-school Gwinnett system, so there are players available to coach up.
A YEAR EARLY? Fans of North Gwinnett had originally circled the 2010 year as the one to be ready for; however, the Bulldogs opened the 2009 football season with a surprise win against perennial Alabama power Prattville (Ala.) High. The team then reeled off 11 more wins before losing in the third round of the playoffs to eventual state champion Kingsland (Ga.) Camden County. Now, everyone will find out if this was, in fact, the year. The Bulldogs open with Marietta (Ga.) Lassiter, Madison (Ala.) Bob Jones, and Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw.
GETTING A GIFT: One place that the Bulldogs do not have to worry about replacing a starter is at left tackle. Rivals.com three-star offensive lineman Garrett Clark transferred in from Daytona Beach (Fla.) Mainland, filling that void.
STAR OF THE SHOW: People around the country learned about C.J. Uzomah in 2009. The do-everything player for North Gwinnett led the team to its 12-1 season and has heavy expectations on his back again this year. At 6-foot-5, the athlete - who committed to Auburn over the weekend - can line up at quarterback or as wide receiver and be equally dominant.
QUOTABLE: "We learned how to do more with less from our time in Kentucky," said coach Bob Sphire, who came to North Gwinnett after starting the Lexington (Ky.) Catholic football program from scratch in 1991. "We did all we could at Lexington Catholic and got an opportunity to come here. Now we are learning how to do more with more. We have more staff, more athletes, more expectations and we have to get the most out of it."
Top 100 countdown
No. 28 Katy Cinco Ranch, Texas
COACH: Don Clayton LAST SEASON: 13-2 FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 16 in Texas
KEEP AN EYE ON: Whether Cinco Ranch can buck local tradition. The tradition, and maybe logical thinking, would suggest that the Katy (Texas) High Tigers are the team who controls the district. This season though, it looks more and more like Cinco Ranch is the team to beat. Confidence from a 21-20 loss to Katy last November may be the reason for that. But this team brings back a lot and appears to have some more settled players. This could be a risky ranking, but could be worth it.
STRENGTH: Cinco Ranch was able to make it to the state semifinals before losing to Austin (Texas) Westlake, and this year's team brings back a lot of those players. The linebacking core, however, is an area that stands out as being especially strong. Jeffery Williams had more than 100 tackles and Ayodele Ilesanmi nearly did as well, checking in with 99 stops.
TRANSFERRING TALENT: Adding to the strength of the team are two Division I level transfers to the defensive line. Stuart Mouchantaf and Mohammad Mustafa both came to Cinco Ranch from crosstown school Katy Morton Ranch. The addition of those two will bulk up the front of the defense and add quality players in the trenches.
STAR OF THE SHOW: In the year of the running back in Texas, it is no shock that the Cougars will lean on a back of their own. K.C. Nlemchi, a SMU commit, paces the team. Nlemchi ran for 2,388 yards last season with 28 touchdowns. He is not the fastest player on the field - running a 4.6 40 - but at 6-foot and 215 pounds, he is a load to bring down once he does get into open field.
Top 100 countdown
No. 27 De La Salle, Calif.
COACH: Bob Ladouceur LAST SEASON: 13-2, California Open Division Champs FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 39 in RivalsHigh Top 100
KEEP AN EYE ON: The offensive side of the ball. Coach Bob Ladouceur thinks that his team will be better defensively than it was last season - even at the end of the year when it made an incredible run to the CIF Open division title. Offensively, however, the coach thinks that his passing game will be better, but with many question marks on the offensive line, rushing the ball may be more difficult.
TIME TO STEP UP: With practice set to open in California, the legendary coach has circled two names in particular that need to bring it this year for the Spartans to be successful. Antoine Pickett, an outside linebacker, needs to "elevate his game this year," according to Ladouceur. In the secondary, Marshall Cotton at free safety is expected to increase his play and "really contribute on defense."
AVERAGE TURNOVER: De La Salle is a traditional power out of Northern California and this season the expectations are the same as any. The turnover at the school does not appear to be too far off from most years, as the Spartans return five starters on both sides of the ball, but will need to replace its offensive line.
NORCAL REPRESENTING: "We are doing well in state title games," Ladouceur said. "We have more teams now that are performing well, but down in Southern California they still have a bunch more teams than us, so we still have a disadvantage. But the gap is closing, at least on the highest levels."
QUOTABLE: "We like to play games with good competition," Ladouceur said. "We do games if it's doable financially. We may lose our spot in the rankings but we really don't care about that. Those good teams can expose your flaws and help you get better. That is more important than rankings."
Top 100 countdown
No. 26 Armwood, Florida
COACH: Sean Callahan LAST SEASON: 12-2 FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 14 in Florida
KEEP AN EYE ON: How the Hawks transition into a more Power-I formation. After two years operating out of a spread look, the Hawks will look to feature power back Matt Jones. Jones stands 6-foot-2, weighs more than 200 pounds and is very physically developed. The rising junior has a college-ready body and will be a bruiser on opposing teams. One of the strengths of coach Sean Callahan is that even after 21 years of coaching, he is not set in his ways and willing to adjust to the talent on his team - not something that can be said about all coaches.
STRENGTH: The defense is generally the strength for Armwood and should be again this year. The Hawks will switch between a three-man and a four-man front, but that defense will flow through the linebackers, which is slightly different from the past few years when the defensive line was the key to the puzzle. Juice McKinney leads the team from the linebacker position and had 119 tackles and 13 sacks last year.
UNDER CENTER: With the switch to more of an I-formation, quarterback Joshua Grady will be under center more frequently than ever before. Grady, who threw for almost 2,000 yards last year, could have more deep opportunities if the Hawks can effectively use the play-action pass. Grady tossed 18 touchdowns with just five interceptions last year, and didn't make very many costly mistakes.
UNLUCKY: Armwood, who is still a big dog in Florida, would be generating more buzz if it was not in the shadows of Tampa (Fla.) Plant or the same division as Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) Dwyer. Both of those teams won their respective classes last year - and handed Armwood its only two losses. With Jefferson and Robinson generating some local buzz, the Tampa area is on the rise, maybe to the detriment of Armwood's notoriety.