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July 27, 2012

Preseason RivalsHigh 100: Teams 55-51

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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. 55 Fayetteville, Arkansas

Coach: Darryl Patton
Last Season: 12-2, Won Arkansas Class 7A title. Ranked No. 88 nationally.
Fast Fact: Fayetteville won the Class 7A title in Arkansas last season, marking the second time in the last four years it has accomplished the feat. Class 7A is the largest classification in the state but only has 16 teams.
Key Player: Quarterback Austin Allen. Allen is a three-star quarterback prospect who is already committed to Arkansas. Entering his senior year, he is already as tall as his brother (Brandon) and three pounds heavier. There is talk that Allen could end up being higher ranked than Brandon was when his senior year is over. Last year Allen threw for more than 4,000 yards and 46 touchdowns.
The Good: The passing game. The Bulldogs threw for a ton of yards and put up a lot of points last year and that will likely be the game plan for this season. The offensive line is a bit of a concern, but the skill players and Austin Allen are among the best in the state. Talk of Allen being better than his brother, Kiehl Frazier, and Mitch Mustain is starting to heat up as Allen goes through the summer circuit. The other three were members of the Rivals250 and Allen is still a three-star.
The Bad: The defense. There is some hope here as the team received several transfers this offseason, but the raw numbers from 2011 are just awful. In seven games, the Bulldogs allowed 27 points or more, including twice allowing more than 40 points. Only in the first round of the playoffs did the team allow fewer than 20 points. Nothing about that inspires confidence.
The bottom line: Fayetteville will have to keep outscoring opponents, but if that is the game plan, there will be more stumbling blocks. The team has to sure up its defense or it will not repeat. With North Little Rock and Bentonville right on the heels, the team's spot in the RivalsHigh 100 is not a guarantee.

Top 100 countdown
No. 54 Kell, Georgia

Coach: Derek Cook
Last Season: 9-3, lost in Georgia quarterfinals. Unranked in Final Georgia Top 25.
Fast Fact: Kell High opened in 2002 and fielded a team for the 2003 season. It took until the third season to make the playoffs. In 2010, the team made the Elite Eight, and in 2011 it was in the Sweet Sixteen.
Key Player: Cornerback Brendan Langley. Langley is not only the best player on defense, but he might be asked to play a little more on offense than he did as a junior. He had 13 catches and nine carries and completed two passes. But the team is losing its leading passer and its three leading rushers, and despite being a run-heavy team, its three leading receivers. The defense will be fine but the offense could use his athletic ability this season.
The Good: The back seven of the defense. Joining Langley in the secondary will be safety Quincy Mauger and the two are active in the pass defense as well as stopping the run. Mauger is committed to Georgia and has impressed during the summer circuit. The team also returns the two other defensive backs from last year and two of three linebackers -- including 2014 prospect Taylor Henkle. The Longhorns gave up only 14 points per game last season and only allowed state champion Loganville (Ga.) Grayson a single touchdown to open the season. The defense will keep the team in every game this season. If the offense can keep pace, Kell will be successful.
The Bad: Replacing the offense. As noted, the shelves are empty as far as returning offensive players. That is bad for most teams, but it could be devastating for a team that had a hard time putting the ball in the end zone in 2011. The team was shut out twice and didn't score more than 14 points in three other games. If that doesn't improve, the team will not take the next step in the state or in the nation.
The bottom line: This is a typical old-school Georgia football team that plays defense first and runs the ball at a near 4-1 ratio. The problem is there a lot of new-school Georgia schools that can still play defense, but also like to spread teams out and score points. The returning strength is the defense, which can slow down any offense.

Top 100 countdown
No. 53 St. Thomas Aquinas, Florida
Coach: Rocco Casullo
Last Season: 10-3, lost in Florida quarterfinals. Ranked No. 67 nationally.
Fast Fact: In the past four years, St. Thomas Aquinas has alternated Top 5 finishes with finishing out of the Top 25. In 2008, the team claimed a national title, and in 2010 a runner-up finish. Between those seasons was a No. 27 finish and last year's No. 67 ending.
Key Player: Quarterback John O'Korn. O'Korn stepped in for Max Lescano as last season progressed -- and the offense regressed -- but he was not able to provide a spark. This season, it is his team and the expectations are raised as the program again has an FBS-level quarterback. O'Korn is a three-star prospect who is committed to Houston and should be a step up over last season.
The Good: There is talent everywhere. In every position group, there will be at least one player who will commit to an FBS-level football program. The strength of the team might well be in the trenches, where Ohio state commit Joey Bosa and Anthony Moten lead the defense and Austin Bland, Kyle Schafenacker, and Zach Provin will control the offensive line.
The Bad: The offense. In 2011, the team had a FCS-level quarterback and pair of receivers, as well as an FBS-level running back to go with the offensive line that returns this year. This year, while there is an upgrade at quarterback and another running back in the stable, there is concern about the remainder.
The bottom line: St. Thomas Aquinas is one of the best programs in the country with an amazing coaching staff. The last time it started a season this low in the rankings, it finished No. 2 nationally. With a run to a state title -- and a potential win over Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco -- a Top 10 finish would not be a shock. Whether this group can match what others have done is the question.

Top 100 countdown
No. 52 Clay-Chalkville, Alabama

Coach: Jerry Hood
Last Season: 2-9, unranked in final Alabama Top 10.
Fast Fact: At numerous points in the 2011 season, there was the thought that Clay-Chalkville was the top team. The team was forced to forfeit nine wins that it had earned during the season and was eliminated from the playoffs.
Key Player: Wide receiver DeAndre Woods. Woods is a three-star player who is already committed to Mississippi State and is certainly motivated to erase the memory of last season. Woods had 460 yards on 36 catches and 10 touchdowns, despite rarely seeing action in the second half of most games. His ability to make most every catch is huge for the team, especially in distance situations where his reliable hands move the chains regularly.
The Good: The team is motivated. Coach Hood was angry last season when the team was forced to forfeit its season because of an ineligible player. Many of the best players for the team return and they will be easy to motivate. The offense was very good and the defense bent but did not break.
The Bad: The competition in Alabama. Clay-Chalkville is the first of three teams from Alabama to be joining the RivalsHigh 100 and it is barely holding off a few others. The state has a lot of quality football teams this year and despite having many positives, there are others than can match or exceed the talent here. The team can still be a hunter this year, but the prey may be too far ahead.
The bottom line: Clay-Chalkville might not win a state title in Alabama, but could be fully capable of winning so many other states across the country. A second-week showdown with Oxford will be a must-see game and a possible shift in the perception of teams in the state. With Woods, T.J. McCollum, Brian Clark and Sidney Battle, the talent is there to make a run to a title.

Top 100 countdown
No. 51 Lincoln, Florida

Coach: Yusif Shakir
Last Season: 9-2, eliminated in Class 7A first round. Ranked No. 29 in Florida.
Fast Fact: Head coach Yusif Shakir is an alumni of Lincoln and has taken the program to new heights, including state titles in 2001 and 2010, as well as make the program relevant with multiple national rankings.
Key Player: Athlete Taj Williams. Williams is listed in the Rivals.com database as the receiver, but he spent more time playing in the defensive backfield in 2011 and has about half of his college offers on the defensive side of the ball. Williams and Reggie Davis could make for the best receiver duo in the country. Each played really well at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge, but it was Williams who never left the field as his Southern teammates fell. His heart can help push Lincoln back into the winners circle.
The Good: The offense. With three offensive lineman, a trio of FBS-level receivers and quarterback Cameron Joseph all returning, there are high hopes for the scoring output to increase this season. The team put up nearly 40 points per game in 2011, and with the number of talented players returning, that could move up by a full score.
The Bad: The front seven on defense. Lincoln does have four-star linebacker James Hearns to brag about, but that is about it on the front seven. The defensive backfield should be able to slow down passing attacks, but teams going right after the face of the defense could be successful. Tallahassee allowed its last five opponents to score 21 points or more, including a 39-point outburst by Fleming Island in the first round, when Lincoln was eliminated.
The bottom line: There is no excuse to not succeed in 2012. Lincoln has a ton of talent and a schedule that sets up for a bookend of tough tests. The ability to rest players in second half of games in the sweltering heat will be important. The team will need to step up on defense and stay healthy, but from there it is on them and the coaches to perform at the level they should. Outside expectations may never have been higher on this team and with good reason.

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