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July 24, 2012

Preseason RivalsHigh 100: Teams 85-81

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Dallas Jackson is the High School Football analyst for Rivals.com. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

Rivals.com began its 2011 countdown Monday, ranking the teams from No. 1 through No. 100.

We started at No. 100 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 Wednesday, Aug. 8 - just 10 days from the start of the season.

After that, we will wait until Aug. 27 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.

View the complete rankings timeline if you missed anything | Final 2011 Expanded Rankings

Top 100 countdown
No. 85 Denton Guyer, Texas

Coach: John Walsh
Last Season: 8-4, Eliminated in second round. Unranked in Final Texas Top 50.
Fast Fact: Guyer fielded its first football team in 2006 and finished winless. The team only won one game during its second season. However, during the last four years, Guyer has averaged 11.5 wins per season while bouncing between Class 4A and 5A.
Key Player: Wide receiver Ellis Jefferson. As a junior in 2011, Jefferson shared the catches with Conner Crane and Dominic Ramacher, which limited his productivity. Crane is now at Stanford and Ramacher is at Oklahoma State. Jefferson still hauled in 38 passes for 676 yards and five scores, which was enough to warrant multiple offers and a commitment to Arizona State. He will now be the focal point of the passing attack and can elevate his national ranking where he is currently the No. 92 receiver in the country.
The Good: Reclassification benefits Guyer. As a school that is on an enrollment fault line, Guyer has moved from Class 4A to 5A and now back down for the next two years. The timing of the team moving down has coincided with some teams moving up such as Manvel and Lake Travis. This makes Guyer the squad to beat in that class.
The Bad: Replacing the defensive line. Graduation is always a concern on the high school level and this team got hit pretty hard. Guyer lost three FBS-level players from the defensive line. Replacing Daniel Kottman, Diontre Thomas, and Cody Hennessee will be quite hard to do.
The bottom line is being the best in Texas 4A may not be what it has been in recent years. So many of the best teams in the class have moved up (and Stephenville has moved down) and while Guyer could win a title, it may not be enough keep the team among the best 100 teams in the country. Opening the season with Cedar Hill High and Colleyville Heritage will provide measuring stick games for the team and the class.

Top 100 countdown
No. 84 S.A. Madison, Texas

Coach: Jim Streety
Last Season: 10-5, Class 5A-DI semifinalist. Ranked No. 31 in Texas.
Fast Fact: Madison made a run to the Texas 5A-DI semifinals and ended with a 10-5 record in 2011. The team nearly gave up more points than it scored with a 476-472 point differential. Madison suffered two 41-point losses early in the year to Kerrville Tivy and Converse Judson.
Key Player: Running back Marquis Warford. Madison coach Jim Streety is the all-time winningest coach in Texas 5A and he has done it largely on the back of a good running game. This year will be Warford's time to shine in the backfield. During the Rivals.com era, Madison has sent running backs to Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas, Ole Miss, and Texas-San Antonio. Warford is sitting on an offer from Rice, but with a solid season that number should steadily climb. He rushed for 2,162 yards and 22 scores as a junior.
The Good: It can't get worse. Starting the 2011 season 1-3 and getting blown out was the worst start to any season under Streety. The team rebounded and avenged its blowout 48-7 loss to Converse Judson with a 25-24 win in the playoffs. Entering the 2012 season, Madison returns nearly all of its best players from last year and should continue to improve because of that experience.
The Bad: The defense is still suspect. The Mavericks have not allowed fewer than 18 points per game in any of the last five seasons, but they have been over 25 points per game in three of the last five years. It will not help that the team starts out with out-of-district games against Cibolo Steele, Kerrville Tivy, and Smithson Valley in three of the first four weeks. There will be plenty of questions about this defense answered early on.
The bottom line is Madison was young and hurt early last year, but the team rebounded to make a great run. That is the silver lining - the team made a strong run in the playoffs and grew together. The grey cloud is that the last time the same thing was written about Madison, before the 2009 season, the squad limped to a 6-4 campaign and was one of the biggest disappointments from that preseason RivalsHigh 100.

Top 100 countdown
No. 83 St. Xavier, Ohio

Coach: Steve Specht
Last Season: 10-4, Ohio Division I semifinalist. Ranked No. 4 in Ohio.
Fast Fact: St. Xavier has played among the Top 25 hardest national schedules each of the last five years and has been in many defensive struggles. The Bombers annually have one of the best defenses in the county and have held an opponent to single digits 19 times in the last five years. Conversely, the team has been held to single digit scoring in 11 contests itself.
Key Player: Running back C.J. Hilliard. If there is one thing that is a certainty with Cincinnati St. Xavier, it is that this team will run the ball. Hilliard is a 2014 back that has been measured at 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, which is about two inches taller than three year starter Conor Hundley was. Specht would routinely call Hundley his hammer and let him keep pounding. If Hilliard is given that opportunity he can shine.
The Good: The defense. It goes without saying that the defense will be the key to this team as it is every year. There will be games in the 2012 season that the offense is invisible with more punts than first downs. In those cases, the defense will need to weather that storm, create plays and turn field position when it can. Senior linebacker Mark Jacob and defensive backs Robby Ries and Joe Barrett will have to be active in the turnover department.
The Bad: The quarterback position. St. Xavier has had some quality quarterbacks over the nine years that Specht has been the head coach, but they have been few and far between. This team has an FBS-level running back in Hilliard, Michigan State commit Trey Kilgore at wide receiver, as well as two other senior receivers, Kevin Milligan and Ben Carroll. The player that will be the hinge of that offense will be the one with the most pressure, and right now, that is totally unsettled.
The bottom line is St. Xavier often gets credit for having good losses and not good wins, and that needs to change. With a schedule that is littered with quality opponents, nearly every week of the season is a potential loss or a really strong win. Specht is one of the best coaches in the country and with the talent he has on the offensive side of the ball and the tradition that breeds success on defense, this could be a signature season if the Bombers can go on tilt and make a run.

Top 100 countdown
No. 82 Gaffney, South Carolina

Coach: Dan Jones
Last Season: 14-1, South Carolina Class 4A runner-up. Ranked No. 21 nationally.
Fast Fact: Gaffney was re-districted back into Region 2 in South Carolina this season. The current alignment of teams in that Region has won 14 state titles in the last 12 seasons. With Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes, Roebuck (S.C.) Dorman, Spartanburg (S.C.) High and Gaffney, this could rival Georgia 6A-Region 1 as one of the best in the country.
Key Player: Wide receiver Shaquille Davidson. Gaffney had risen to No. 2 in the country last season with a stifling defense and an explosive offense. The team looked the part of a national champion until it lost Davidson with a knee injury in the final weeks of the season. Davidson is an explosive playmaker at the receiver position, but he is also a player that can change the game on special teams. If he comes back full strength the Indians can challenge for another title.
The Good: The offense. Gaffney returns a lot of size in the trenches and experience with three starters back. The team also has impact players at the skill positions. They will need to replace the production of All-American receiver Quinshad Davis and quarterback Joey Copeland, but the Indians believe rising-senior Luke Lancaster can guide the ship as the new signal caller.
The Bad: The secondary. This is nitpicking the negative but the secondary last year was underrated and aggressive. Gaffney graduates three players from the secondary and it will be tough to replace the swagger that those kids brought to the field. Aside from Byrnes there may not be anyone on the schedule to test that secondary. That game is not until October so some questions could be answered.
The bottom line is Gaffney may have missed its chance to claim a state and national title in 2011 and that has to sting. The Indians had a truly remarkable team last season and while there is still talent on the field with Davidson, Jaylen Miller, and others, it will not be the same. The only thing Coach Jones should be having the kids focus on from 2011 is the loss it suffered to Byrnes in the title game when turnovers really cost them. Remember that feeling and not the run up the rankings and then this team can hold its own in 2012.

Top 100 countdown
No. 81 North Little Rock, Arkansas

Coach: Brad Bolding
Last Season: 9-3, Class 7A quarterfinalist. Ranked No. 10 in Arkansas.
Fast Fact: Junior running back Kavin Alexander is the cousin of former Arkansas standout and current Oakland Raider Darren McFadden. Alexander will split time behind four-star running back Altee Tenpenny.
Key Player: Running back Altee Tenpenny. The program has sent six players to FBS-level schools during the Rivals.com era, but none have been ranked as high as Tenpenny. He is coming off of major ankle surgery but says that he is healthy and his strength is back. He can squat 480 pounds and power clean 325. There are few things the Alabama commit cannot do.
The Good: This team is experienced. North Little Rock returns 18 starters, 15 of which are three-year starters for the program. There are 10 starters on offense and eight on defense, which should make season preparation fairly easy. The offensive line will have four seniors and a junior back and the youngest of the group, Curtis Parker, may have the highest ceiling.
The Bad: The defense. While this unit does return eight starters, it could be a bad thing as the group gave up 242 points last year and only held two opponents to single digits. The toughness in the trenches will need to improve in order to take that next step not only in the state, but nationally as well.
The bottom line is North Little Rock will have its season judged very publically when it goes to Longview (Texas) High for a game. The last time the nation paid attention to a game between these two states it was an ugly loss for Springdale (Ark.) Shiloh Christian at the hands of Euless (Texas) Trinity. In order for Arkansas to start making its way up the perception ladder this contest has to be closer. The expectations are very high at North Little Rock, but the final poll is what matters most.

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