The National Select 7-on-7 Championships, annually the best of the 7-on-7 season, start Thursday in Hoover, Ala.
The winner of the prestigious 32-team event is dubbed the summer national champion and a team to watch this fall.
On hand will be teams from 17 states, 28 10-game winners, nearly a dozen state winners, including host school Hoover (Ala.) High, and almost 100 players already included in the Rivals.com database.
"The National Select 7-on-7 continues to build on the success of its tournament play-in events and nine-year history," David Bannister, the event's director of marketing and sponsorships, said. "We have the strongest field ever."
While there are record temperatures in the forecast for Birmingham, the action on the field will be just as heated.
RivalsHigh.com will be on the field and in the broadcast booth for all the action. For the best coverage of the event, check out our event headquarters page.
For the list of the pools and seeding click here or for a full event schedule, click here
Breakdown: There is no home-cooking in this event, as the host team may have been thrown into the best pool at the tournament. Hoover finished second at the Byrnes event two weeks ago and is riding high. Har-Ber has also shown well this 7-on-7 season and will be running its regular season offense. It has also previously won this event. North Gwinnett has one of the best quarterbacks in the showcase with C.J. Uzomah at the helm. Mandarin Christian is more than likely wishing it had landed in a different pool as it will be outclassed with this draw.
Potential Spoiler: The pool is very top heavy with three of the top four seeds expected to make solid runs in the tournament. However, if there is a sleeper to be found, it would most likely be the No. 7 seed, Mandeville High. The Skippers got hot towards the end of the 2009 season and will feature four senior wide receivers as well as running back Charles Jones who can catch the ball out of the backfield.
Player to Watch: This is a loaded pool and has plenty of very good players to choose from. While the play of Uzomah may direct North Gwinnett to the tournament title, it will be the play of Hoover wide receiver Jaylon Denson that many will be on hand to see. Denson is one of the hottest names in football this offseason with his play at other 7-on-7 events and his recent commitment to Auburn. With many scouts and analysts on hand, this could be his national coming out party.
Prediction: Hoover, Har-Ber, and North Gwinnett will all show very well and two of those three may end up in the Final Four of the tournament. Which two is the tough part to pick. North Gwinnett and Hoover may be the odds-on favorites for this bracket and the combination of quarterback Ryan Carter to Denson will be the deciding factor.
Pool B Breakdown
Seeding: Memphis (Tenn.) University School, Paducah (Ky.) Lone Oak, Louisville (Ga.) Jefferson County, Fairhope (Ala.) High, Atlanta (Ga.) Grady, Griffin (Ga.) High, Decatur (Ala.) Austin, Mobile (Ala.) McGill-Toolen
Breakdown: This is the weakest pool of the four as none of the teams here should be seeded into the top three of any other pool. Memphis University School and Lone Oak both lost too many players from last season's state championship teams to be considered serious threats to win this event. The middle seeds also would not be in the middle seeding of any other bracket, making the top end of this pool very weak. Two of the bottom three teams, however, are very tough outs and could steal the pool.
Potential Spoiler: The potential for a spoiler in this pool is more of a guessing game as to which team will actually win the pool. The No. 6 seed, Griffin High, and the No. 8 seed, McGill-Toolen, are teams generally loaded with athletes and that fits in perfectly for the 7-on-7 format. Look for either of those teams to steal some headlines in this event.
Player to Watch: The Griffin Bears bring in two of the better prospects to the tournament in Nile Daniel and Corey Moore. Moore is the better of the two players and, in a 7-on-7 event, he can really showcase his ability to lockdown an opponent's top target. Look for the Georgia commit to shine.
Prediction: The pool could benefit in the seeding process with a few of the bottom teams getting blown out and helping some of the others. Or it could turn into an ACC-style pool where all the teams mash on each other and cause a cluster in the process. Memphis University School or Griffin will likely take the pool and make a small but noticeable run once tournament play starts. Look for Griffin to be the team that steals the headlines here.
Pool C Breakdown
Seeding: Park Ridge (Ill.) Maine South, Shreveport (La.) Evangel Christian, Marietta (Ga.) Lassiter, Madison (Ala.) Bob Jones, Lake City (Fla.) Columbia, Olive Branch (Miss.) High, Hoover (Ala.) Spain Park, Jeffersonville (Ind.) High
Breakdown: Pool C is a deceptively deep pool without a lot of name-brand teams or players in the tournament. Maine South, Evangel and Lassiter were all ranked nationally last season. Olive Branch is generally one of the better teams in the South. Bob Jones is a team to watch this year and Indiana football is poised to have one of its best seasons nationally in a long while. Seeing this poll on paper may not be as stunning as Pool A or Pool D, but it is no slouch either.
Potential Spoiler: In terms of a spoiler, it is tough to call when there is no clear favorite. Based on national perception, many will think Maine South or Evangel have the inside track here, but that may not be the case. Look for these four teams to really open some eyes in pool play and maybe even take out a favorite or two in the tournament: Lassiter, Bob Jones, Olive Branch and Spain Park.
Player to Watch: Be sure to check out the play of 2012 cornerback Niles Clark. The junior defensive back will be put in a place to play against the opposition's top wide receiver. The 5-foot-10 back has been creating a lot of buzz already as a player to watch for next season.
Prediction: This pool may be the hardest to predict just with the lack of a blow away favorite or a clear bottom dwellar. That said, there are some very high expectations coming out of Madison and Bob Jones. Look for the Patriots to be able to score a lot of points and come out of this bracket. Also, don't be stunned if Bob Jones makes a run in the tournament format as well.
Pool D Breakdown
Seeding: West Monroe (La.) High, Roebuck (S.C.) Dorman, Springdale (Ark.) Shiloh Christian, Jefferson Hills (Pa.) Thomas Jefferson, Prattville (Ala.) High, Kenton (Ohio) High, Alpharetta (Ga.) High, Hoover (Ala.) High - B Team
Breakdown: Pool D is a very top-heavy pool, much like Pool A, but without as much quality depth behind it. West Monroe, Dorman, and Shiloh Christian all finished in the RivalsHigh 100's Top 50 teams last season and all are expected to start the season in the Top 30 when the countdown gets rolling. Thomas Jefferson is a Pennsylvania Class AAA power but it is struggling to find its quarterback. Prattville, while a name-brand team, is not expected to be as tough as in years past and may not be at the level of competition that could be found in other brackets - until next year, that is, when they are expected to be loaded.
Potential Spoiler: The surprise of the pool may come from its No. 7 seed, Kenton. While the true "spoiler" will not happen with the other teams in this bracket, the Wildcats love to throw the ball and junior quarterback Maty Mauk averaged nearly 400 yards for the season last year. With top receivers Dustin Howell and Andrew Tillman to throw to, this experienced group could certainly surprise a lot of people who could take them lightly.
Player to Watch: In a pool with plenty of star players, Shiloh Christian quarterback Kiehl Frazier can shine the brightest. Frazier is one of the most heralded quarterbacks to ever come out of Arkansas and his senior year is expected to be a special one in Springdale. He can make all of the throws and has command and trust of everyone on his team. His coach, Josh Floyd, was one of the most prolific quarterbacks in Arkansas history and the Saints run the Gus Malzhan style of offense in the regular season, so the 7-on-7 season is just an extension of that.
Prediction: Shiloh Christian is our pick to win the entire event and the play of Frazier will make-or-break that prediction. Either Shiloh, Hoover, or Har-Ber have won each of the last five National Select 7-on-7 titles and this is not only the Saints' turn, they have the best team in the field.