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August 3, 2012

Preseason RivalsHigh 100: Teams 15-11

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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 2012 countdown last 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. 15 Vista Murrieta, California

Coach: Coley Candaele
Last Season: 8-5 (five forfeits), Won Inland Division. Ranked No. 38 Nationally.
Fast Fact: Last season Vista Murrieta did not lose a game on the field but missed out on a chance to play for a California Interscholastic Federation Bowl -- which is arbitrarily selected, not solely earned on the field -- after being forced to forfeit five games earlier in the season. The team certainly has to be motivated by the unfavorable decisions.
Key Player: Do-everything Su'a Cravens. The USC commit was the leading rusher and leading tackler for the Broncos in 2011 and will be expected to repeat his performance this season. The team will rely on Cravens, as well as Kei-ron Long and transfer Kishawn Holmes, to power the running game and the addition of those two players could keep Cravens fresh. He is the headline player of the group and will be asked to lead again.
The Good: The offense. With the return of Cravens and quarterback Nick Stevens, the team should be able to put up similar numbers as it did last season. The addition of Holmes -- who gained more than 1,200 yards last season at his previous school -- will only make the group better. The offensive line is almost entirely new, but it was not a strength in 2011. As long as it is not markedly worse, it should be a successful campaign.
The Bad: Turnover at offensive line and defensive backfield. Most every other position on the field will have the majority of its leaders back, but the offensive line will lose four players and the defensive secondary will only return Cravens. Each of the new seven players will need to step up and play well if the team wants to push for the Division I or Open Bowl games this year.
The bottom line: Vista Murrieta could have been the best team in Southern California last season, but it did not get to prove it in a bowl game. This year an early Top 25 ranking may be generous with the losses on the offensive line but the returning core of players is very talented. The play of Nick Stevens was an added bonus for a team that could have succeeded by keeping the ball on the ground, but he needs to do it again. Vista Murrieta is still a relatively new school and reloading could be tough.

Top 100 countdown
No. 14 Plant, Florida

Coach: Robert Weiner
Last Season: 14-1, Florida Class 8A Champion. Ranked No. 16 nationally.
Fast Fact: Since the start of the 2006 football season, Plant has only lost six games and has won four state championships. In Weiner's eight seasons with the school, the team has lost 18 games, 12 in his first three years.
Key Player: Quarterback Aaron Banks. Plant has had a recent run of quarterbacks making their way to college: Robert Marve (multiple colleges), Aaron Murray (Georgia), Phillip Ely (Alabama), and James Few (Cornell). Banks is a dual-threat player who could push his way to an FBS-level offer if he can keep the program winning -- and if he can hold off Olympia transfer Colby Brown.
The Good: The offensive line. There are not as many high-profile players at Plant this year but that doesn't mean the team is still not loaded. That starts up front with Florida State commit Richy Klepal. The 6-foot-5 monster will anchor a line that returns Richard Bush and Ray Raulerson. The group should be able to pave the way for Wesley Bullock again. Bullock, listed at 5-foot-7, worked behind the big guys to rush for more than 1,100 yards last season.
The Bad: The linebackers. At this stage of the rankings, it is hard to call the category bad but this will be the most inexperienced group on the field. Returning two-star Mitchell Wright will need to be the leader of the group with Terrance Jenkins seeing an increased role as well. The defensive line will return three starters up front and that should allow the linebackers to flow to the play and make plenty of tackles. This group will need to be active early.
The bottom line: Plant is in the driver's seat to another state title with one of the best coaching staffs in the country and the talent to go with it. An early season contest with River Ridge (La.) John Curtis and a midseason date with Seffner (Fla.) Armwood will be mile-marker games.With the recent success of Plant, there is little reason to doubt this team will make another deep run in December.

Top 100 countdown
No. 13 De La Salle, California

Coach: Bob Ladouceur
Last Season: 13-1, Won California Open Division Bowl. Ranked No. 18 nationally.
Fast Fact: No team in Northern California has defeated De La Salle since 1991 -- a span of nearly 250 games. That can be seen as a feather in the cap of the De La Salle program or a serious indictment of the level of play in Northern California. Adding another round of CIF playoff games could start to challenge that number more regularly, as the Spartans will be forced to play theoretically the second-best team in the region every year going forward.
Key Player: Quarterbacks Chris Williams and/or Joe Metcalf. The team will be replacing three-year starter Bart Houston. That could be easier with the team's reliance on the veer and not a traditional offense. Houston was actually an odd fit at De La Salle with his downfield ability. The coaches, to their credit, crafted the offense to his arm, but this year will be a switch back to the usual offense.
The Good: The linebackers. The Spartans have possibly the best group of linebackers in the county with Michael Hutchings, Victor Egu, and David Moffitt. Last season the team recorded five shutouts and allowed only four of its 14 opponents to score more than seven points. The bar is set high, but with a weaker lineup of games (until the latter rounds of the playoffs) those numbers should be easy to replicate.
The Bad: The schedule. As noted, De La Salle has owned Northern California for the last two decades and that figures to continue. In recent years, the team has traveled or hosted major powers and has been on the receiving end of some losses early in the year. This year, with what may be its most physically imposing team in a number of seasons, it has backed off that approach and scheduled a down Denver (Colo.) Mullen team for a home contest. A road test with San Jose's Bellarmine or its home game against Stockton St. Mary's may be a better game in the early going but nothing on the schedule is a game that many believe is a losing proposition.
The bottom line: De La Salle will likely cruise to the CIF Regional Bowl game before it gets its first serious test of the year. It is hard to get a good read on the team until the final weeks of the season, but its domination in the last two CIF Open Bowl games has resulted in high rankings. This season, with a lot of talented teams and much more challenging games, De La Salle may be undefeated and still not have the schedule to claim the top spot in the rankings. Or course if those teams fall, De La Salle may set up a late season showdown with a chance to take home a RivalsHigh 100 national title.

Top 100 countdown
No. 12 Southlake Carroll, Texas

Coach: Hal Wasson
Last Season: 16-0, Won Texas 5ADI State Championship. Ranked No. 9 nationally.
Fast Fact: Southlake Carroll will be the first visiting team to play in the new Allen (Texas) High school stadium this August. The $60 million stadium will seat more than 17,000 comfortably, and that still might not be enough when these metroplex powerhouses square off. Southlake Carroll and Allen have finished ranked in the Top 10 the past five seasons.
Key Player: Quarterback Kenny Hill. The dual-threat Hill is already committed to Texas A&M, so he will enter his season without the recruiting distractions. He threw for just over 3,000 yards last season and rushed for nearly 1,400. With so little returning around him, Hill may have to increase those rushing numbers while taking a step back on the passing side.
The Good: The offensive line, Hill, and running back A.J. Ezzard. The team only returns five players on offense: three on the offensive line, Hill, and Ezzard. Hill totaled nearly 1,400 yards rushing last season while Ezzard picked up 693. Cam Manning is the bell-cow of the offensive line at 6-foot-3 and more than 260 pounds. The three-star is committed to Louisiana Tech and will need to shine this season if the Dragons want to repeat.
The Bad: The defense. There will be plenty of holes with only Tanner Jacobson, Ray Crockett and Nash Dickey returning. Crockett and Jacobson in the secondary could help mask some of the deficiencies of the group, but it is a tall order.
The bottom line: Outside of Allen, there are not many teams that can truly test Southlake Carroll until the playoffs. That could be good or it could be bad as the Dragons may not have the chance to address some weaknesses that playing a beefier schedule would force. A repeat in Texas is a very tough mission to accomplish, but doing it with an almost entirely new team will be even more daunting. This could be an over-rank based on past success. A run to a state title this year would be a stunner.

Top 100 countdown
No. 11 Lake Travis, Texas

Coach: Hank Carter
Last Season: 16-0, Texas 4ADI State Champions. Ranked No. 5 nationally.
Fast Fact: After winning five consecutive state championships on the Class 4A level, Lake Travis is moving up to Class 5A. During the improbable streak of success, the team has done it with three different head coaches.
Key Player: Quarterback Baker Mayfield. While not the prototypical quarterback, Mayfield continues the tradition of incredible production at Lake Travis. The 5-foot-11 quarterback tossed 45 touchdowns to go with his near 4,000 yards. The team will need his arm again as the defense will have more holes than in recent seasons.
The Good: The offense. The surprise factor for this being the strength of the team is at a zero. The Cavaliers have been one of the more prolific offenses year-in and year-out, not only in Texas, but across the country. The team returns three on the offensive line, its quarterback and its leading receiver. It will need to replace Griffin Gilbert, who was a red zone machine last season with 18 touchdowns, but it seems as though this group will have enough firepower.
The Bad: The secondary. With the attention being placed on the offense, there were times last season that the defense carried the flag. But with only four starters returning, that is worrisome. The secondary was the most hit and that could prove to be costly, especially against a team that likes to air it out, such as Lake Travis. The defensive line will be strong and the linebacker group will hold its own. Going over the top and trying to create a shootout may be the way to unseat this five-time defending champion.
The bottom line: With the success of other former Class 4A teams on the Class 5A level, the run of success for Lake Travis has already been validated. The odds are that next season the team will be looking for a seven-peat. There will not be many Division I players on this squad, but that what makes the school special. It does not lean on one player, because it has many good players.

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