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July 30, 2010

RivalsHigh 100: Teams 55-51

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Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

RivalsHigh.com has begun its 2010 countdown, ranking the teams from No. 1 through No. 100.

We started at No. 100 on Monday 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.

In case you missed it: Previous ranking groups | Post your thoughts about teams 55-51

Top 100 countdown
No. 55 John Curtis, Louisiana

COACH: JT Curtis
FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 59 in RivalsHigh Top 100

KEEP AN EYE ON: How the offensive and defensive lines come together. According to assistant coach Jeff Curtis, the offensive line lost four of its six players. The Patriots usually use their tight end as an extra tackle with the split-back veer the team runs, so replacing nearly everyone across the offensive front will be tough. The defense - which plays in a 3-4 scheme - loses all three players off of the front line.

PLAYING BOTH WAYS: Two of the more athletic players for John Curtis will likely split time playing on both sides of the ball. Torrey Pierce and Josh Hanberry - who are both expected to be key contributors on offense - will line up as defensive backs against teams who like to throw the ball. Pierce, the team's leading returning rusher, will play mostly running back. He ran for more than 1,400 yards last year and is expected to improve on that number. Hanberry led the team in receiving last year, eclipsing the 800-yard mark, a number that doesn't sound that impressive but, measured against the amount of times Curtis ran the ball, it is stunning.

STAR OF THE SHOW: The best player on the field might just be linebacker Seth Jones. Jones is a three-star linebacker with offers from four schools. Curtis said that his pass rusher can slide into the inside backer spot if need be, but his real strength is using his speed and leverage lining up over the tight end and putting pressure on the quarterback.

QUOTABLE: "We have some good kids coming back," Jeff Curtis said. "We are working hard to get better. Our sophomores are looking really good, especially at running back. But Louisiana as a whole is getting better each year. So we have to keep up with that."

Top 100 countdown
No. 54 Oaks Christian, Calif.

COACH: Bill Redell
FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 54 in RivalsHigh Top 100

KEEP AN EYE ON: Oaks Christian's move out of the Tri-Valley League. For most of the past seven years since becoming a national player, the knock has always been the lack of top-level competition the team faced within its conference. Now in the Maramonte Conference, the Lions will play Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure and Westlake Village (Calif.) Westlake each year, as well as any one of the other teams in that conference that could have a good season. The league switch means that Oaks has moved from a nearly-guaranteed 10-win season to having the potential of losing two or three games each year.

STRENGTH: The skill positions at Oaks will be the team's strength this season, as the team brings back four wide receivers and the team's two running backs, Ismail Adams and Carlos Mendoza. It could be argued, though, that the team is also strong in players with famous fathers. One of the four returning receivers is Trey Smith, son of actor Will Smith. And Trevor Gretzky, son of hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, will take over at quarterback for Nick Montana, who, as one might assume, is the son of legendary quarterback Joe Montana.

CONCERNS: The biggest concern for this year is the depth of the team and the play of the lines. The team was able to get by with questionable depth for years and rely on the top-end talent to beat the very weak competition it faced week in and week out. The Lions only return one offensive lineman and just two on the defensive line.

TALENT POOL: All of the knocks against Oaks Christian are on one side of the fence, while the results and the college recruits are on the other. The man in the middle has been coach Bill Redell. "The teams we have has the past seven years, starting with Jimmy Clausen, we have had 40 kids go to Division I schools," he said. "I don't think college coaches come here and get kids because we play poor teams. It's because we have good players."

QUOTABLE: "We could be 10-0 or we could be 4-6. A lot will depend on our lines and our running backs and the jury is still out," Redell said. "If we are (still) in the Tri-Valley, we are 10-0, no doubt."

Top 100 countdown
No. 53 Katy, Texas

COACH: Gary Joseph
FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 23 in RivalsHigh Top 100

KEEP AN EYE ON: If Katy can get back to the title game again. Since the loss of running back Aundre Dean following the 2007 season, people have looked for reasons why Katy will fall, but coach Gary Joseph has proven this to be a program with plenty of staying power. The past two seasons have been just as successful, including a trip to the state finals last year.

STRENGTH: The defense returns four all-district players to starting roles in 2010 and those players figure to be the backbone of the unit. Defensive lineman John Sampa, linebacker Grant Clifton, and defensive backs Colt Atwood and Channing Pate will be looked to lead the Tiger defense.

STAR OF THE SHOW: Playing running back at Katy has become like playing quarterback at Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei - plenty of expectations and a lot of hype. For Donovonn Young, it is time to earn the hype. At 5-foot-11 and just over 210 pounds, Young will be in the starring role for Katy. Last season, he tallied 658 yards on the ground and figures to do even more this season.

REPLACING NARCISSE: A major loss for Katy is going to be the absence of Nick Narcisse. The 6-foot-4 end had an offer from Baylor, but will miss his entire season with a rare but treatable form of throat cancer. Narcisse was diagnosed in the offseason but should be back to full strength by the end of his senior year.

Top 100 countdown
No. 52 Wheaton South, Illinois

COACH: Ron Muhitch
LAST SEASON: 13-1, Illinois Class 7A State Champions
FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 76 in RivalsHigh Top 100

KEEP AN EYE ON: The first two games of the season. Wheaton South comes into the season with expectations to repeat the success from last year, and the team begins the year with Hinsdale Central and Maine South before getting into its conference schedule. Coach Ron Muhitch said the team chose to play those games to size themselves up early. The game with Maine South will match the two highest-rated teams in the state and the state champions from the two largest classifications from last year.

STRENGTH: According to Muhitch, the strength of this team is overall team speed. He acknowledged that team speed is not the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of Illinois teams, but said this team incorporates a college-style speed training regimen for its fastest and slowest players and it has helped in a major way. Also, the team played nine games on turf last year, making it all the more faster. Muhitch called his team an "absolute all-buck hot-pursuit team."

STAR OF THE SHOW: It's relatively easy to become a team leader when you're the starting quarterback. It's even easier, though, after winning a state title and being one of the best players on the field. And this year, returning starter Reilly O'Toole is taking his leadership role seriously - and in impressive fashion during this offseason. Wheaton South performed well at the Northwestern passing camp, won the Illinois 7-on-7 and finished second at Notre Dame. Ever the stat tracker, Muhitch said his quarterback completed 78 percent of his passes this summer.

QUOTABLE: "Look, we are a little undersized than a lot of Illinois teams, but it is OK because we are faster than most of them," Muhitch said. "We are built for speed and we try to emulate Iowa on defense. We build our team like theirs and fit that defensive scheme to a T."

Top 100 countdown
No. 51 Bishop Gorman, Nev.

COACH: Tony Sanchez
LAST SEASON: 15-0, Nevada Division 4A State Champs
FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 46 in RivalsHigh Top 100

KEEP AN EYE ON: If the Gaels can come anywhere close to the offensive explosion they had last season. Gorman scored 798 points last year - the highest team scoring total in the country. The team lost a ton of offensive talent but still appears to be the best team in Nevada.

STRENGTH: Curiously enough, the strength this year may just be the defense. The Gaels have one of the best defensive ends in the country in Jalen Grimble and two defensive backs who can cover and hit, starting with Evan Zeger.

SCHEDULE TO COMPETE: While the competition in Nevada may not be the highest level one can find, Bishop Gorman has done a great job with its open dates, finding top-quality opponents. This season opens with a game against Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton and is followed up by a matchup with one of the rising teams in Northern California, Loomis (Calif.) Del Oro. Then, before October hits, the team will travel to take on Concord (Calif.) De La Salle, in what may be the truest measuring stick of the season for not just the team but potentially the entire state of Nevada.

SLEEPER PICK: For a team that liked to air it out in 2009, it may do a little more on the ground this year. Jordan Welte isn't the fastest kid in the world, clocking in at a 5-second 40, but he will run that speed from the first play to the last play of the game. He has been offered by Minnesota as a fullback or linebacker, but his short yardage capability can not be overlooked.

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