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.
Coach: Chuck Reedy
Last Season: 14-1, South Carolina 4A-DII Champions. Ranked No. 48 Nationally.
Fast Fact: Goose Creek won its first ever state championship in 2011. The Gators scored the final 23 points to cap a 37-21 victory over Greenwood. The team blocked two punts in the second half to help seal the victory.
Key Player: Running back Caleb Kinlaw. It's possible that Kinlaw is the best running back in the state entering this season and he is still just a junior. Having already received offers from South Carolina and Virginia Tech, this work horse back will be asked to carry the offensive load again for the Gators. With solid 4.5 speed, Kinlaw can outrun just about anyone and he can also play bigger than the 175-pounds he is listed at. He had 130 yards in the state finals against a strong Greenwood defense.
The Good: The defensive front seven. Highlighted by four-star linebacker Gerald Turner, the defense for the Gators should be next to impossible to score on this season. The defensive line will feature three-star end Jalen Stevens, as well as tackles Mike Myers and DeShawn Evans. All three could be FBS-level commitments by the time the season is completed.
The Bad: The schedule. With the amount of starters returning, it is expected that this team goes undefeated and makes a march to the state finals. While that is great for the fans, it is also tough for the rankings. Goose Creek will likely not be tested as its region foes will provide little resistance, if any, during the regular season. The team is better than last season, but by how much will be hard to quantify.
The bottom line is this team is stacked and ready to repeat as state champions. The biggest challenge will likely be from ranked Rock Hill (S.C.) South Pointe in the playoffs. Kinlaw will pile up huge numbers and the defense will shut down its opponents. Goose Creek should climb into the bottom of the Top 25 before the playoffs start, but its quality wins will have to come later on in November and December.
Top 100 countdown
No. 29 Bishop Gorman, Nevada
Coach: Tony Sanchez
Last Season: 15-1, Nevada Class 4A Champion. Ranked No. 7 nationally.
Fast Fact: After going nearly 25 football seasons without a state championship in football, Bishop Gorman has won the last five in Nevada. This has prompted plenty of controversy from association members to have Gorman removed from participation from the playoffs.
Key Player: Quarterback Anu Solomon. A four-star player, Solomon has started at Gorman since his freshman year and is looking to win a state title in every season he has been on campus. The dual-threat quarterback has improved his down-field passing each of the last two offseasons and there is more expected of him this year as he has a pair of three-star receivers at his disposal.
The Good: The offense. There will be few teams in the country that can match up against what Gorman brings to the table. With Solomon at quarterback, Jamir Tillman and Ryan Smith at receiver and Nathan Starks at running back, there is not a hole to be found. Tight end Robert Stanley only reeled in nine passes last season, but has an offer from Utah.
The Bad: Who will protect those players? There is certainly talent walking the halls at Bishop Gorman, but few will argue that there is another trio of Ronnie Stanley, Ron Scoggins and Nick Strehlow ready to step onto the offensive line. Lott Haia-Kahalewai, Tanner Britton and Will Mendoza will try to fill that void, but it could be a difficult order to handle.
The bottom line is Gorman will be facing a tough schedule with nationally ranked Olney (Md.) Good Counsel to open the season, followed by Honolulu (Hawaii) St. Louis, No. 34-ranked Oradell (NJ) Bergen Catholic and No. 45-ranked Anaheim (Calif.) Servite all before the end of September. This is a team that could push well into the Top 10 and challenge for a national title, if it can navigate its schedule and show that the offensive line is able to return. Critics pointing to the loss of Shaquille Powell at the running back position have not seen Starks run the ball. The line is the key to it all.
Top 100 countdown
No. 28 Armwood, Florida
Coach: Sean Callahan
Last Season: 0-15, Deposed Florida Class 6A Champion. Ranked No. 3 Nationally.
Fast Fact: The Armwood football program has been stripped of its 2011 state championship and its wins in 2010 due to the use of ineligible players. There are still questions about how many players on the current roster will be eligible.
Key Player: Quarterback Darryl Richardson. By many accounts, the team played better last season with receiver Alvin Bailey at the helm, but that will need to change. To his defense, Richardson was playing with an injury through much of the season and that effected his progression. Now that he has had time to heal, Richardson can show his full strength level of play.
The Good: The defense. As always, the Hawks' defense will be one of the best in the country and a true strength of this team. The key to the team will be the defensive line, but the star player with be defensive back Leon McQuay III. Head coach Sean Callahan is a northern guy and runs his team like a Western Pennsylvania or Ohio squad that grinds down opponents and doesn't beat itself. That combination has led to loads of success and will be the same this season.
The Bad: The offensive line. Armwood will not return a single starter on the offensive line and must find a way to replace four players who went on to FBS-level schools. For a team that is not an explosive group, being forced to grind out victories with inexperienced players on the front line could prove to be tough.
The bottom line is this ranking should come with an asterisk as it could change at any moment. The team earned its No. 3 ranking last season with the play on the field and that will not be changed. However, if the players who were ruled ineligible this season: linemen Gabe Nold and Aaron Evans, cornerback Markis Firlow, linebacker Omar Gordon as well as Yassine Ouazzani are not granted clearance to play, there could be a problem with maintaining the rankings. The team will play nationally-ranked Delray Beach (Fla.) American Heritage as well as Tampa (Fla.) Plant in the regular season. Those will be the two measuring stick games before a playoff run that could include multiple teams of relevance.
Top 100 countdown
No. 27 Whitehaven, Tennessee
Coach: Rodney Saulsberry
Last Season: 14-1, Tennessee Class 6A runner-up. Ranked No. 3 in Tennessee.
Fast Fact: Serving more than 103,000 students, the Memphis City Schools system is by far the largest school district in Tennessee. In a 2011 vote, the residents of Memphis voted to disband the system and merge with the Shelby County School District. This will nearly double the size of the district but could add more funding to Whitehaven and other Memphis schools.
Key Player: Running back Mark Dodson Jr.. As Dodson goes, so will this Whitehaven team. Dodson is not only the best player on the team, but he is the emotional leader of this group as well. Dodson can push for the top running back spot in Tennessee with a solid season and the Ole Miss commit has the talent to be among the best nationally. A Rivals250 member and No. 4-ranked all-purpose back, Dodson will be asked to keep pounding the football this season.
The Good: There is so much talent at Whitehaven. This team made it to the state finals last season with all of its best players being juniors. Now that the core of the team is seniors, it is expected to take the next step and bring home the title. Dodson will be joined by receivers Gerald Perry and Justin Hunt along with quarterback Patrick Smith as FBS-level players at the skill positions. The defense is also littered with senior leaders, including Darrius Sims in the secondary. There are a lot of expectations this season for Whitehaven to take home a state championship.
The Bad: The offensive line. Vincent Hunter is a given to be good, but the rest of the group is a question. Often undisciplined on the offensive line, this group is going to need to step up in a big way if this team is going to reach full potential this season. It is up to the group of seniors to keep the team together as well as push the unheralded offensive line to be the best it can be.
The bottom line is there is little difference between Whitehaven and East St. Louis (Ill.) High, except for expectations entering the year. East St. Louis just missed the preseason rankings and Whitehaven just missed the Top 25. Those two teams will play on Aug. 31 and a lot of questions will be answered. For those that enjoy a lot of athletes on the football field, that will be one to watch. It is also a defining game for both middle-tier states perceptions.
Top 100 countdown
No. 26 Lassiter, Georgia
Coach: Jep Irwin
Last Season: 10-4, Class AAAAA quarterfinalist in Georgia. Ranked No. 10 in Georgia.
Fast Fact: Long known as more of a baseball school, the Lassiter football program advanced to the state quarterfinals for the first time in school history. No Cobb County team has won a football state championship since 1967.
Key Player: Quarterback Eddie Printz. Seemingly on the national scene for years, Printz will be a three-year starter for the Trojans. He has already committed to UCLA and will be the leader of the team. Printz will have two returning receivers to throw the ball to in Clemson commit Ryan Jenkins and three-star Juwan Dickey. The offense Coach Irwin likes to run sets up for plenty of success this season with that trio.
The Good: The offense. The return of Printz, Jenkins and Dickey makes the team explosive through the air. What's better is that the offensive line returns plenty of battle tested players as three sophomores started during the four-game playoff run for Lassiter last season. Each of those linemen figure to be major factors this season as the team has a daunting schedule that will require a lot from them.
The Bad: The learning curve. While there are a lot of experienced players coming back, there is still plenty of youth on this team. Irwin's system can be tough to grasp and if the team is not learning its assignments and the players are not in the right position, then the product will be an ugly one at best. Many questions will be answered early with tests against Powder Springs (Ga.) Hillgrove and nationally ranked Marietta (Ga.) Kell before the middle of September. A Region showdown with Marietta (Ga.) Walton will be a separation game for each team as both are nationally ranked.
The bottom line is there are high expectations entering this season after a program best playoff run. This ranking could be as volatile as any in the RivalsHigh 100. Lassiter has the talent to make a deep run into the playoffs and justify this preseason hype, but it also has enough youth that the team could bottom out by starting with two losses in its first three games.