High-SchoolFootball: POWERADE FAB 50

FAB 50 Offseason Primer: Oscar Smith

June, 13, 2012
Oscar Smith FootballAP Photo/The Daily Progress, Sabrina SchaefferOscar Smith (Chesapeake, Va.) won the Group AAA Division 6 state title last season to finish No. 43 in the POWERADE FAB 50.
During the offseason, we’ll check on one team per week that looks like a sure bet to be among the best in the nation this fall.

FAB 50 Offseason Primer archive

This week’s team: Oscar Smith (Chesapeake, Va.)

2011 Season: 14-1, Group AAA Division 6 state champion, No. 43 in the final POWERADE FAB 50.

Projected 2012 Preseason Ranking: Top 50. The Tigers continue to produce touted skill players, and this season should be no different. At the head of the pack is Zack Jones, a wide receiver/defensive back who caught 49 passes for 993 yards and 16 scores as a junior. He has committed to Virginia, where his brother, Perry, is a team captain and running back. The Tigers have a chance to make a statement in August when they entertain South Carolina power Byrnes (Duncan, S.C.) in a showdown of defending state champions. Byrnes was ranked No. 30 last season in the FAB 50. Oscar Smith went unbeaten versus in-state competition in 2011 and reeled off 14 straight wins after losing to FAB 50 No. 21 Gilman (Baltimore). The Tigers have won eight straight district titles in the competitive Tidewater area and will be the team to beat again in 2012.

Team Strengths: Besides Jones, the Tigers return the team's top tackler in pass-rushing defensive end Kanyia Anderson , who recorded 110 tackles, 22 sacks and forced six fumbles. Two touted underclass prospects include freshman running back DeShawn McClease and sophomore wide receiver Jaylen Bradshaw (5-11, 170). Both already are on the radar of college recruiters. Another running back gaining attention is junior Marcus Smith (5-8, 170). All three will need to step up to replace J.C. Coleman, who signed with Virginia Tech. The other main offensive concern is at quarterback with productive J.J. Williamson off to Hampton University. His backup, Dashawn Blow (5-8, 175), is primed for the job. Other players to watch include sophomore defensive lineman Drew Varner, sophomore linebacker Marquise Cook and freshman kicker Brad Davis.

Another Virginia team to watch: Salem (Virginia Beach, Va.) gave Oscar Smith its biggest in-state scare last season before falling 35-34 in the Eastern Region Division 6 championship and finished 11-2 overall. The SunDevils return touted quarterback Bucky Hodges, a 6-foot-6, 225-pound junior who has committed to Virginia Tech. Hodges completed 64 percent of his passes last year for 2,142 yards and 26 touchdowns with only six interceptions. Leading the defense is top linebacker Andrew Motu'apuaka, who recorded 97 tackles and had three interceptions as a junior. When all is said and done in the Tidewater area, Salem could hold bragging rights over Oscar Smith and other contenders.

FAB 50 Offseason Primer: Staley

June, 6, 2012
Trent HosickTom Hauck/ESPNHSJunior quarterback and Missouri commit Trent Hosick guided Staley (Kansas City, Mo.) to its first state title this past fall.
During the offseason, we’ll check out one team per week that looks like a sure bet to be among the best in the nation this fall.

FAB 50 Offseason Primer archive

This week’s team: Staley (Kansas City, Mo.)

2011 Season: 14-0, Class 5 state champion, No. 12 in final Midlands Region rankings.

Projected 2012 Preseason Ranking: Top 50. While the Falcons didn’t win the highest division in Missouri’s Show-Me Bowl last December, they made a strong case that they were the state’s top overall squad. Not only were they unbeaten, but they posted a win against Blue Springs (Mo.) early in the season and Blue Springs was a team that also notched a win early in the season against Class 6 state champion Blue Springs (Mo.) South (Blue Springs, Mo.). This year’s Staley team once again will feature the talents of Trent Hosick (6-2, 220), one of the top-ranked quarterbacks in the nation. A Missouri commit, Hosick rushed for 2,403 yards and 31 touchdowns as a junior and passed for 1,422 yards and 10 scores.

Team Strengths: Hosick’s return automatically makes the Falcons a choice to be one of Missouri’s best teams for this fall. He has committed to Missouri after getting offers from most schools from the Big 12 and Big Ten. For the team to repeat and be higher in the rankings, however, a replacement will need to step up for graduated standout Morgan Steward. He rushed for 2,226 yards and scored 36 times in his senior season. A good bet to become that feature back is Tre Childs, who averaged nearly eight yards per carry as a backup. Another plus will be the return of all-state offensive lineman Austin White. The defense also could be in rebuilding mode and will need some younger players, including sophomore linebacker Parker Mertz, who played varsity as a freshman, to become team leaders.

Another Missouri team to watch: Webb City (Mo.) begins 2012 as a two-time defending Class 4 state champion and with on a 30-game winning streak. It’s hard to tell how the Cardinals would fare against bigger schools, but early in the season they are going up against Har-Ber (Springdale, Ark.), a solid Class 7A program from Arkansas. This year’s team at Webb City also is loaded with returning standouts, led by running back Phoenix Johnson, who rushed for 1,920 yards and scored 33 touchdowns last fall. Three others who earned Class 4A all-state honors as juniors are defensive lineman Jose Speer, kicker Alex Easley, linebacker Nate Brown and tight end Kohl Slaughter.

FAB 50 Offseason Primer: Don Bosco Prep

May, 30, 2012
TBD EditorJeff Skopin/ESPNNewYorkDon Bosco Prep (Ramsey, N.J.) won its sixth straight state title last season to finish No. 1 in the POWERADE FAB 50 for the second time in three years.
During the offseason, we’ll check out one team per week that looks like a sure bet to be among the best in the nation this fall.

FAB 50 Offseason Primer archive

This week’s team: Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, N.J.)

2011 Season: 11-0, Non-Public Group IV state champion, No. 1 in the final POWERADE FAB 50.

Projected 2012 Preseason Ranking: Top 25. The Ironmen have an almost unmatched resume in recent seasons, winning six straight state titles, achieving three consecutive unbeaten seasons and earning two FAB 50 national crowns in the last three years. Don Bosco will take a 46-game win streak -- the second-longest active winning streak in the nation -- into the season. This year, the Ironmen will once again face a difficult schedule. Season-opening opponent Gilman (Baltimore) finished No. 21 in the FAB 50, while St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) was the 2010 FAB 50 champ and Alta (Sandy, Utah) is a strong program. Don Bosco could move up the FAB 50 ladder with early-season success against the non-Jersey foes, but it faces its biggest task in recent years. The Ironmen must replace several talented starters, including ESPNHS All-American and Rutgers recruit Darius Hamilton and sophomore running back/cornerback Jabrill Peppers, an ESPNHS Underclass All-American who transferred to Paramus Catholic (Paramus, N.J.). While coach Greg Toal’s track record has to be respected in the preseason FAB 50 positioning, top 10 might just be too high in the early going.

Team Strengths: The major strength of this fall’s squad will be on defense, especially along the line, which returns standouts Alquadin Muhammad, who’s the No. 145 recruit in the ESPN 150, and Razohnn Gross. Also expected back is junior linebacker Spencer Scannell and junior defensive backs Isaiah Hill and Justin Wimberly. The Ironmen won the FAB 50 crown with a first-year starter, Mike Yankovich, at quarterback. They’ll have to do the same this year. Sophomore Eric Meile could be in line for the starting nod this fall. Sophomore running back Aaron Guzman could be another key offensive performer.

Another New Jersey team to watch: Bergen Catholic (Oradell, N.J.) could be the team that ends of the domination of Don Bosco. Bergen Catholic’s losing streak against the Ironmen is 10 games, but they did lead after three quarters in the first of last year’s two losses. The Crusaders, however, have the returning personnel to get the job done. The veterans for coach Nunzio Campanile, a former Don Bosco coach, include quarterback Jon Germano, who passed for 2,359 yards and 31 scores for the 8-3 team; wide receiver John Tsimis, who caught 50 passes for 754 yards and 11 scores; top rusher James Dawson; and linebackers Parker Tobia and Dan Grasso.

FAB 50 Offseason Primer: John Curtis

May, 23, 2012
Raekwon JamesAP Photo/Bill HaberJohn Curtis (River Ridge, La.) sophomore running back Raekwon James helped lead the Patriots to their 24th state title this past fall.
During the offseason, we’ll check out one team per week that looks like a sure bet to be among the best in the nation this fall.

FAB 50 Offseason Primer archive

This week’s team: John Curtis Christian (River Ridge, La.)

2011 Season: 14-0, Class 2A state champion, No. 28 in the final POWERADE FAB 50.

Projected 2012 Preseason Ranking: Top 20. It was a historic season for the Patriots last fall, not so much for their 24th state title but when coach J.T. Curtis -- who has been leading the football program at the school named for his father since 1969 -- won his 500th game. Curtis became just the second coach in U.S. history to achieve that many wins and ended the season at 506-54-6. The only coach with more wins is 85-year-old John McKissick, who's still coaching at Summerville (S.C.). The numbers should continue to accumulate in 2012 and the national ranking could be much higher as well. Almost all of the top players from last year will be back. And if the Patriots get past probable FAB 50 preseason ranked Byrnes (Duncan, S.C.) at the Allstate Sugar Bowl Prep Classic in September, they could be pushing for the top 10 or higher.

Team Strengths: Breakaway speed on offense and an outstanding linebacker-secondary corps on defense gives the Patriots much to build on. Offensively, junior running back Sherman Badie earned Class 2A all-state honors after rushing for 1,239 yards and 19 touchdowns on only 87 carries (14.2 yards per carry). Sophomore Raekwon James scored a pair of touchdowns in the 33-3 win over Winnfield (La.) in the state championship and ran for 761 yards and 11 scores on the season. And junior Tevin Horton rushed for 765 yards and 12 scores. Quarterback Abby Touzet is just a freshman, and although the Patriots are a team that doesn’t throw much, he did gain valuable experience. Another plus on offense will be the return of lineman Anthony Taylor (6-7, 330), who is yet another of the team’s major college prospects. Defensively, Class 2A Player of the Year Duke Riley will lead the returnees. The linebacker is perhaps John Curtis Christian’s best overall player. Junior Richard Allen will lead the secondary.

Another Louisiana team to watch: Karr (New Orleans) motored to an 11-4 season in 2011 and made it to the Class 4A state final, where it lost to Neville (Monroe, La.) 27-6. It was a Cinderella ride that should be followed up by a season of higher expectations since so many top players for the Cougars were underclassmen. Sophomore quarterback Devante Noil passed for 1,654 yards and 26 touchdowns and rushed for 772 yards and eight scores. Also returning will be tight end Standish Dobard, a Miami commit rated No. 131 in the ESPN 150, and Noel Ellis, who’s rated the nation’s No. 17 cornerback by ESPN. The defensive line for Karr should be tough as well due to the expected return of junior Titus Charles and standout sophomore Gerald Willis.

FAB 50 Offseason Primer: Louisville Trinity

May, 9, 2012
James Quick AP Photo/Joe ImelTrinity (Louisville, Ky.) junior wide receiver James Quick caught 82 passes for 1,434 yards and 21 touchdowns last season to help lead the Shamrocks to their 21st state title.
During the offseason, we’ll check out one team per week that looks like a sure bet to be among the best in the nation this fall.

FAB 50 Offseason Primer archive

This week’s team: Trinity (Louisville, Ky.)

2011 Season: 14-0, Class 6A state champion, No. 3 in the final POWERADE FAB 50.

Projected 2012 Preseason Ranking: Top 10. The Shamrocks, who are coming off the highest national ranking since 1938 for a Kentucky team, return several major offensive weapons who should bolster their chances for another high position. Since coach Bob Beatty took over in 2000, the Shamrocks have appeared in 11 of 12 state title games, including the last seven, and won nine crowns to boost the school's overall title haul to a state-record-tying 21.

Team Strengths: Trinity will bring back touted wide receiver/kick returner James Quick. Rated the nation’s No. 59 recruit in the ESPN 150, Quick earned ESPNHS Underclass All-American honors this past season after catching 82 passes for 1,434 yards and scoring 22 total touchdowns. Junior quarterback Travis Wright passed for 3,036 yards and 39 touchdowns with just three interceptions. And junior running back Dalyn Dawkins rushed for 1,901 yards on 237 carries and scored 34 total touchdowns. All three played huge roles in Trinity averaging nearly 50 points per game last season. Trinity’s main concern is replacing five graduated offensive linemen.

Another Kentucky team to watch: Highlands (Fort Thomas, Ky.) is to Class 4A what Trinity is to 6A. The Bluebirds also have 21 state titles, including the last five in a row, and if Highlands can find a replacement for graduated Gatorade State Player of the Year and University of Kentucky quarterback recruit Patrick Towles, the team could make it six in a row. Last season, Highlands finished No. 31 in the FAB 50 with a 15-0 record while setting state single-season records with 7,516 total yards, 849 points and 121 touchdowns. Last season's roster included 65 underclassmen and the backup to Towles was sophomore Drew Houliston. Veterans expected back include junior wide receiver Donovan McCoy and junior defensive back Blake Schutte. Highlands has played top Cincinnati teams in the past that often determines regional and national ranking positions. Highlands’ schedule this fall will feature a game against last season's state Class 6A state runner-up, Scott County (Georgetown, Ky.).

FAB 50 Offseason Primer: Armwood

April, 25, 2012
Alvin BaileyKynon Codrington/ESPNHSArmwood (Seffner, Fla.) junior Alvin Bailey accounted for three touchdowns in the Class 6A state final against Miami Central (Miami) to help lead the Hawks to their third state title.
During the offseason, we’ll check out one team per week that looks like a sure bet to be among the best in the nation this fall.

FAB 50 Offseason Primer Archive

This week’s team: Armwood (Seffner, Fla.)

2011 Season: 15-0, Class 6A state champion, No. 2 in final POWERADE FAB 50.

Projected 2012 Preseason Ranking: Top 25. This team’s positioning could be negatively impacted if harsh sanctions are handed down by the Florida High School Athletic Association at the conclusion of an ongoing investigation about the residency of players on last year’s team. On the field, the Hawks are loaded with returning players at the skill positions, but they will need to replace numerous top linemen. Armwood doesn’t have as much back overall as other Florida teams like Manatee (Bradenton, Fla.) or Miami Central (Miami), which is the team Armwood beat to win its state title. But coach Sean Callahan is a proven winner and those skill players are special.

Team Strengths: There aren’t many teams in the nation that will have a dynamic duo like Leon McQuay III and Alvin Bailey. McQuay, who’s No. 34 in the ESPN 150, is a ball-hawking safety. He also could see more time on offense next season. Meanwhile, Bailey is No. 49 in the ESPN 150. He caught six passes for 112 yards and one score when Armwood beat FAB 50 No. 8 Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) 20-17 last year, handing the Gaels their only loss. He later switched to quarterback due to injuries and is expected to be back at wideout as a senior. Quarterback Darryl Richardson could be another strength while upcoming sophomore Keylaun Edwards could be another game-breaker. Edwards, who is the younger brother of graduating starter Wade Edwards, joined his brother as well as McQuay and Bailey as part of Armwood’s school-record-breaking 4x100 relay team. On defense, two leading tacklers who should return will be linebacker Warren Williams and defensive back Antonio McCullough.

Another Florida team to watch: We’ve already written up Manatee in this series and don’t want to do just a few sentences about another potential powerhouse like Miami Central or Plant (Tampa, Fla.), Armwood’s big local rival. So we’ll focus on a Tampa that could surprise in Wharton. The Wildcats were 6-6 last year, appeared in the Class 8A playoffs and will be led by receiver-cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, the No. 4 recruit in the ESPN 150. In addition to Hargreaves, Wharton will return most of its roster, including 6-foot-6 sophomore quarterback Chase Litton (2,056 yards, 10 touchdowns) and leading tackler Rocky Enos.

FAB 50 Offseason Primer: Good Counsel

April, 11, 2012
Kendall FullerCourtesy of Good Counsel AthleticsElite junior defensive back Kendall Fuller is one of several standouts returning for Good Counsel (Olney, Md.), which finished No. 5 in last season's POWERADE FAB 50.
During the offseason, we’ll check out one team per week that looks like a sure bet to be among the best in the nation in 2012.

FAB 50 Offseason Primer Archive

This week’s team: Good Counsel (Olney, Md.)

2011 Season: 13-0, Washington Catholic Athletic Conference champion, No. 5 in final POWERADE FAB 50.

Projected 2012 Preseason Ranking: Top 30. The Falcons will return several experienced members of the school's first perfect squad. Last season's No. 5 ranking was bolstered by the defeat of eventual Florida state champion Manatee (Bradenton, Fla.), but a rematch isn't in the works for the upcoming season. Good Counsel does return enough key personnel to earn a FAB 50 spot to start the season -- the only question is, how high?

Team Strengths: The Falcons graduated some big-time playmakers, like Stefon Diggs, but return several defensive standouts in addition to quarterback Brendan Marshall. The most touted defender will be secondary star Kendall Fuller, but the defense should have additional linchpins such as linebackers Marcel Ngachie, Dorian O'Daniel, Reggie McGee and Darien Carr and secondary veterans Kirk Garner and C. J. Jones. Kobe Walker will be in the secondary mix, while C. J. Carroll is another receiver to watch. Sam Mustipher, Michael Konrad and Joe Ralli will anchor the o-line. And, of course, it doesn't hurt to have the state's all-time winningest coach, Bob Milloy, who will enter his 43rd season with a 365-106-1 record.

Another Maryland team to watch: Gilman (Baltimore) will be in the running with Good Counsel for Maryland preseason No. 1. The Greyhounds return their quarterback, Shane Cockerille, as well as three highly touted college prospects in defensive lineman Henry Poggi, son of head coach Biff Poggi; linebacker Micah Kiser (6-2, 220); and linebacker Melvin Keihn (6-3, 230). Gilman ended last season with a 10-1 record and a No. 21 FAB 50 ranking. It's lone loss was to Good Counsel and it handed Virginia champion and FAB 50 No. 43 Oscar Smith (Chesapeake, Va.) its only loss. The Greyhounds will face a tough early test against Moeller (Cincinnati) on Aug. 26.

FAB 50 Offseason Primer: Grayson

April, 4, 2012
Nkemdiche ESPNHSRyan Gibson/ESPNHSGrayson (Loganville, Ga.) junior defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche had 18 sacks this season and led the Rams to their first state title.
During the offseason, we’ll check out one team per week that looks like a sure bet to be among the best in the nation for next fall.

This week’s team: Grayson (Loganville, Ga.)

2011 Season: 15-0, Class AAAAA state champion, No. 4 in final POWERADE FAB 50.

Projected 2012 Preseason Ranking: Top 5. It’s been 20 years since there’s been a Georgia team at the top of a final national ranking and this squad could be the one to do it. Valdosta (Ga.), the winningest program in U.S. history, was the last school from the state to accomplish that feat in 1992. Grayson will not only be playing top teams from Gwinnett County (arguably the best county for football in the state), but it also has stepped up with its scheduling to include a matchup against Miami Central (Miami) on Aug. 31. Miami Central is expected to be one of the highest-ranked preseason teams in Florida.

Team Strengths: Defense, defense and more defense. If there’s a team in America with a better group coming back on that side of the ball than what coach Mickey Conn has at Grayson, it’s a team that just got a bunch of five-star transfers. The best player on defense for the Rams is perhaps the country’s best overall recruit, junior lineman Robert Nkemdiche. The ESPNHS All-American had 18 sacks for the second consecutive year and also scored 17 touchdowns on offense. He’ll be joined up front by fellow junior and all-state selection Jack Banda. Another all-state selection, junior Wayne Gallman, is a standout at running back and linebacker. Junior defensive back Kasey Gaines was named Gwinnett County Defensive Player of the Year (Nkemdiche was the overall Player of the Year) by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, while junior defensive back David Kamara is receiving interest from major programs.

Another intriguing defensive player is junior defensive back/punter Austin Meadows, who joined the team late last year after starring for USA Baseball’s gold-medal winning 16U National Team at the IBAF World Youth Championships.

So just how good were the junior-oriented Rams on defense last year? They only gave up six first downs to previously unbeaten Walton (Marietta, Ga.) in last year’s 24-0 win in the state championship and completely shut down Walton junior running back and Alabama commit Tyren Jones, who had scored 38 touchdowns coming in.

There could be some question marks on offense, especially under center since star quarterback Nick Schuessler signed with Mississippi State.

Another Georgia team to watch: While Walton was shut down by Grayson in the Class AAAAA finals, Colquitt County (Moultrie, Ga.) was not in the semifinals. The Packers (11-3) had upset nationally ranked Camden County (Kingsland, Ga.) in the quarterfinals and lost just 35-31 in a shootout to Grayson. Coach Rush Probst’s program is still looking to take a step up to the level that the program at Hoover (Ala.) had ascended to when he was there, but the squad will return five key defensive starters. Linebacker John Gray is the best of that bunch. On offense, quarterback Cole Segraves (6-4, 220) passed for 2,115 yards and 17 touchdowns as a junior and is one of the best in the state. Bobby Hill, who led the team in touchdown catches, also will be back along with three starters on the offensive line.

FAB 50 Offseason Primer: Warrenville South

March, 28, 2012
Dan VitaleScott Powers/ESPNChicago.comWheaton Warrenville South (Wheaton, Ill.) loses star running back Dan Vitale, but the Tigers return a number of other top performers to make some national rankings noise.
During the offseason, we’ll check out one team per week that looks like a sure bet to be among the best in the nation in the fall.

FAB 50 Offseason Primer Archive

This week’s team: Wheaton Warrenville South (Wheaton, Ill.)

2011 Season: 10-4, Class 7A state finalist

Projected 2012 Preseason Ranking: Top 35. The Tigers rebounded well after a 1-3 start, but their quest for a third consecutive state championship was thwarted by unbeaten Boylan (Rockford, Ill.) in last year’s 7A title game. With two state titles and a runner-up finish in the past three years, Wheaton Warrenville South is buoyed in the FAB 50 by that track record of success. In 2010, the Tigers finished No. 13 in the rankings after winning the second of their back-to-back championships.

Team Strengths: The 2010 title team was senior-dominated, which made last season's state runner-up finish an unexpected surprise. The Tigers will field a more experienced squad in 2012. Injuries forced the team to use three quarterbacks last season, and two of them will return in the fall: sophomores Ryan Graham (6-2, 180) and Jordan Davis (6-2, 185). Graham saw time on the varsity squad during the regular season, while Davis was an emergency starter in the playoffs after starting for the sophomore team all fall. Replacing senior running back Dan Vitale will be the No. 1 task on offense. The Northwestern recruit rushed for 1,340 yards and 17 scores in 2011. The good news is that Vitale was running behind an offensive line made up entirely of juniors, so whoever takes his place will be running behind an experienced unit. Junior Corey Davis (6-3, 195) will also be back at wide receiver. There are questions on the defensive side of the ball, but overall the Tigers appear poised once again to challenge for a state crown.

Another Illinois team to watch: Joliet Catholic (Joliet, Ill.) was 11-3 last season and finished as Class 5A state runner-up to Montini in a wild 70-45 finale, the highest scoring title game in state history. ESPNU 150 Watch List member Ty Isaac will be back after a junior season in which he rushed for 2,629 yards, including 515 in the title game defeat. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound bruiser will be joined in the backfield by junior quarterback Craig Slowik. The Hilltoppers will be seeking an unprecedented 14th state crown, including a seventh for coach Dan Sharp.

FAB 50 Offseason Primer: Vista Murrieta

March, 21, 2012
Su'a CravensVista Murrieta High SchoolVista Murrieta (Murrieta, Calif.) junior standout Su'a Cravens helped lead the Broncos to a CIF Southern Section Inland Division championship and the No. 42 spot in the final POWERADE FAB 50.
During the offseason, we’ll check out one team per week that looks like a sure bet to be among the best in the nation in the fall.

FAB 50 Offseason Primer Archive

This week's team: Vista Murrieta (Murrieta, Calif.)

2011 Season: 14-0 on the field, 9-5 counting forfeit losses, CIF Southern Section Inland Division champion, No. 42 in final POWERADE FAB 50.

Projected 2012 Preseason Ranking: Top 30. With the players expected to return from last fall’s team, it’s easy to see the Broncos starting out at No. 3 in California behind three-time defending CIF Open Division state champion De La Salle (Concord, Calif.) and defending CIF Division I state champion Santa Margarita (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.). The 2011 team, which had to forfeit five games for using an ineligible player, wasn’t given the opportunity to go for a CIF state title, as it was bypassed in favor of two other teams for CIF bowl games. In 2012, however, there will be more CIF bowl slots opening up with the addition of regional games. If Vista Murrieta repeats its section title, it’s almost a guarantee that the team would earn a state bowl bid.

Team Strengths: Most teams would count a player like Vista Murrieta junior quarterback Nick Stevens as their top returnee. One of the top signal-callers in Southern California, Stevens threw for 1,692 yards and 14 touchdowns and ran for 906 yards and nine scores. But most teams don’t have a player like Broncos star junior safety Su’a Cravens, an ESPNU 150 Watch List recruit and an ESPNHS Underclass All-American. Cravens had 96 tackles, 11 sacks and three interceptions on defense and ran for 673 yards and 15 touchdowns and caught four touchdown passes on offense. Also expected back are junior linebacker Bryce Smith, who had a team-high 186 tackles, and promising sophomore defensive end Tyler Cook, who had 78 tackles and 6.5 sacks

So while coach Coley Candaele does have some holes to fill in the trenches, it’s hard to forecast any other team in the CIF Inland Division that will be better.

Another California team to watch: One of the winningest schools in U.S. history and the all-time leader in California with 727 is Bakersfield (Calif.) and the Drillers should be very strong again in 2012. Coach Paul Golla’s club went 13-0 last season after a 38-3 romp past Bullard (Fresno, Calif.) in the CIF Central Section Division I final. The Drillers lose quarterback Chris Hannible and running back Silas Nacita, but seem to have the depth to fill those slots and will return all-state sophomore wideout Kevin Hayes, leading tackler Kenneth Trueba and top kicker Parker Campbell.

After getting bypassed for a CIF bowl game (just like Vista Murrieta), the Drillers have tried to upgrade the non-league portion of their schedule and recently announced they will play Long Beach Poly (Long Beach, Calif.). The Jackrabbits are the only other school in California with 700 or more football wins.

FAB 50 Offseason Primer: Byrnes

March, 14, 2012
Akia BookerGarry Jones/APJunior receiver Akia Booker caught 80 passes for 1,284 yards and 21 touchdowns this past fall to help lead Byrnes (Duncan, S.C.) to its 11th state title.
During the offseason, we’ll check out one team per week that looks like a sure bet to be among the best in the nation for next fall.

FAB 50 Offseason Primer Archive

This week’s team: Byrnes (Duncan, S.C.)

2011 Season: 13-2, Class 4A, Division I state champion, No. 30 in final POWERADE FAB 50.

Projected 2012 Preseason Ranking: Top 25. In South Carolina, the road to a large-class state championship runs through the town of Duncan. The Rebels, who have won 11 titles, will be seeking a third straight crown and ninth in the last 11 years. Entering last season, the concern was the quarterback spot for the pass-minded, high-octane offense. But sophomore Shuler Bentley, son of former Byrnes coach and current district athletic director/Byrnes offensive coordinator Bobby Bentley, took charge and that spot looks secure the next two seasons. Byrnes avenged its regular-season loss versus Gaffney with a 31-24 win in the state final. Twelve starters from that squad were underclassmen.

Team Strengths: Six starters on each side of the ball return to the lineup for Byrnes. The offense is anchored by the all-star passing combination of Bentley to junior wide receiver Akia Booker. In his first varsity season, Bentley passed for 3,495 yards and 47 touchdowns with only seven interceptions, Booker, who’s also a dangerous kick returner, caught 80 passes for 1,284 yards and 21 touchdowns last season. The offensive line will return three starters in junior Nathan Taylor and sophomores Ben Clark and Sydney Martin. The secondary is the strength of the defense with four starters expected back in juniors D.J. Henderson, Keke Ashmore, Brandon Bailey and Shane Samuels. Juniors Alex Garrett and Melvin Armstrong anchor the linebacking corps.

Another South Carolina team to watch: Goose Creek (Goose Creek, S.C.) was one of the better teams that just missed getting a spot in the final POWERADE FAB 50. The Gators capped a school-best 14-1 record with the Class 4A, Division II championship and were a Southeast Region bubble team. Goose Creek, which went 13-1 in 2010, suffered only a 52-51, double-overtime loss to University (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.).

The Gators bring back sophomore running back Caleb Kinlaw, who rushed for 1,497 yards this past fall; junior receiver Tramel Terry, who caught 44 passes for 833 yards and six touchdowns and ran for 847 yards and 10 touchdowns; and junior defensive end Gerald Turner, who has offers from the likes of South Carolina and Clemson.

FAB 50 Offseason Primer: Brophy Prep

March, 7, 2012
Devon AllenMiller Safrit/ESPN.comBrophy Prep (Phoenix) junior receiver Devon Allen scored 17 touchdowns this past fall.
During the offseason, we’ll check out one team per week that looks like a sure bet to be among the best in the nation for next fall.

FAB 50 Offseason Primer Archive

This week’s team: Brophy Prep (Phoenix)

2011 Season: 11-1, Division I state quarterfinalist, unranked in final POWERADE FAB 50.

Projected 2012 Preseason Ranking: Top 40. With a strong cast of returning players off a 2011 team that didn’t lose until the state playoffs, the Broncos could be the preseason team to beat in Arizona. Brophy, which fell to Basha (Chandler, Ariz.) 32-29 in the state quarterfinals, is set to play Santa Margarita (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.) in late August. Santa Margarita figures to start the season No. 2 in California and was projected to be a top-15 FAB 50 team earlier in our Offseason Primer.

Team Strengths: Coach Scooter Molander should have one of the nation’s top collections of skill players, similar to the group at Chaparral (Scottsdale, Ariz.) this fall that was led by quarterback Connor Brewer and receiver/defensive back/kick returner Davonte’ Neal.

Brophy junior quarterback Tyler Bruggman threw for 37 touchdowns with just two interceptions this past season and has offers from a multitude of colleges, including Arizona and Arizona State. Junior receiver Devon Allen had 44 receptions for 844 yards and scored 17 total touchdowns, including a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against North Canyon (Phoenix). He’s been offered by the likes of Michigan, Stanford and Washington. Also returning will be junior running back D’Amani Grayer, who ran for 939 yards and 10 scores. Junior Charlie Renfree leads the offensive line.

On defense, junior linebacker Andrew Curtis racked up 103 tackles in 2011, while junior Robert Relf is a solid contributor at safety.

Another Arizona team to watch: Defending Division I state champion Desert Vista (Phoenix) and perennial power Hamilton (Chandler, Ariz.) aren’t going to hand over state bragging rights to Brophy Prep quite so easily and should be solid once again.

One small school powerhouse with a national reputation for success that may have one of its best teams is Blue Ridge (Lakeside, Ariz.). Coach Paul Moro’s program is coming off a 14-0 Division IV state championship season and should feature one of Arizona’s top prospects, regardless of school size, in 6-foot-3, 220-pound linebacker Chans Cox. The Yellow Jackets, who have won two state titles in the last three years, also will return quarterback Skyler Hill, who threw for 267 yards in the state finals against Show Low (Ariz.).

FAB 50 Offseason Primer: Central Dauphin

February, 29, 2012
Central Dauphin FootballRalph Wilson/APCentral Dauphin (Harrisburg, Pa.) players celebrate with fans after winning the school's first state football title in December.
During the offseason, we’ll check out one team per week that looks like a sure bet to be among the best in the nation for next fall.

FAB 50 Offseason Primer Archive

This week’s team: Central Dauphin (Harrisburg, Pa.).

2011 Season: 15-1, PIAA AAAA state champion, No. 38 in the final POWERADE FAB 50.

Projected 2012 Preseason Ranking: Top 15. The Rams celebrated their first state title last season with a team that featured several underclass standouts. Coach Glen McNamee's squad won its final 14 games after losing to rival Bishop McDevitt (Harrisburg, Pa.). The team defeated defending state champ North Allegheny (Wexford, Pa.) in the semifinals and then upended perennial contender North Penn (Lansdale, Pa.) in the championship. The Rams will likely enter the reason ranked No. 1 in the Keystone State, a spot that’s always going to translate to a high ranking in the FAB 50.

Team Strengths: The three most productive offensive players for the Rams will return for their senior seasons in the fall and that spells problems for upset-minded foes. Quarterback Brandon LaVia ran a balanced attack, throwing for 1,490 yards and 16 touchdowns and rushing for four scores. Running back/linebacker Zayd Issah was league MVP on offense, but he’s just as touted on the defensive side. He finished the year rushing for 1,345 yards and 21 touchdowns and catching 10 touchdown passes on offense and racking up 123 tackles and 14 sacks on defense. Junior running back/defensive back Drew Scales had nine touchdowns on offense and was also a dynamic kickoff returner.

Another Pennsylvania team to watch: North Allegheny (Wexford, Pa.) had its unbeaten season and bid for a second straight PIAA AAAA state crown halted in the state semifinals by Central Dauphin, which won 23-20 on a last-second field goal. The Tigers, who finished No. 49 in the FAB 50, could be in the running for another state crown in the fall with the return of eight all-conference players, three of which earned all-state honors. ESPNHS Underclass All-American and two-way lineman Patrick Kugler, a Michigan commit, will anchor both lines. Quarterback Mack Leftwich will run the offense after accounting for 36 touchdowns as a junior.

FAB 50 Offseason Primer: Union (Okla.)

February, 22, 2012
Tulsa Union FootballAP Photo/The Tulsa World, Joey JohnsonUnion (Tulsa, Okla.) players celebrate winning the team's fourth straight state title last season. Union beat Broken Arrow (Okla.) in the final and finished No. 24 in the POWERADE FAB 50.
During the offseason, we’ll check out one team per week that looks like a sure bet to be among the best in the nation for next fall.

FAB 50 Offseason Primer Archive

This week’s team: Union (Tulsa, Okla.)

2011 Season: 13-1, Class 6A state champion for fourth straight year, No. 24 in the final POWERADE FAB 50.

Projected 2012 Preseason Ranking: Top 15. Though one of Union’s two wins against longtime rival Jenks (Okla.) was by just one point, the Redskins have without question become the state’s dominant program and no longer have to share top billing with the Trojans. Twelve starters that helped Union edge Broken Arrow (Okla.) 23-22 in the state final are underclassmen, so the 2012 team could be one of the best in school history. Coach Kirk Fridrich will also take next season’s team on a challenging road trip to face Texas powerhouse and three-time state champ Trinity (Euless, Texas).

Team Strengths: Junior quarterback Hunter Atyia tops a very talented cast of skill players, while junior defensive end Dalton Rodriguez is one of many standouts expected back to lead the defense. Atyia accounted for nearly 2,300 yards of total offense this past season. He’ll be helped out by freshman running back Terrel Buchanan, who excelled late in the season after standout running back Kendall Holmes was suspended. Buchanan became an instant star and was one of the best freshmen in the nation. Junior receivers Chris Hall and Kahlil Barnett will help Atyia in the passing game. Rodriguez will likely be the team’s top recruit next season, while sophomore linebacker Coleby Evans was second on the team in tackles. Evans was a star in the state final, returning a fumble 30 yards for a touchdown that tied the game (the ensuing extra point was the game-winner) and picking off a pass earlier in the fourth quarter to set up another score.

Another Oklahoma team to watch: MacArthur (Lawton) reached the Class 5A state final last year and lost in a battle of undefeated teams to Guthrie (Okla.) 24-7. The Highlanders will return 6-foot-1, 220-pound running back Darius Graham, one of the top college prospects in the state for the Class of 2013. Graham rushed for nearly 1,500 yards as a junior. Second-leading tackler Derek Block also will be back. You can never count out Jenks, of course, in Class 6A and the Trojans will have another big-time running back in junior Trey’Vonne Barr’e, who rushed for more than 2,000 yards last season.

FAB 50 Offseason Primer: St. Ignatius (Ohio)

February, 15, 2012
St. Ignatius FootballTony Dejak/APSt. Ignatius (Cleveland) won its state-record 11th state title last season and finished No. 26 in the POWERADE FAB 50.
During the offseason, we’ll check out one team per week that looks like a sure bet to be among the best in the nation for next fall.

FAB 50 Offseason Primer Archive

This week’s team: St. Ignatius (Cleveland)

2011 Season: 13-2, Division I state champion for 11th time, No. 26 in final POWERADE FAB 50.

Projected 2012 Preseason Ranking: Top 20. The Wildcats have won a record 11 Division I state crowns, all since 1988, under coach Chuck Kyle. And they should once again be the team to beat in the Buckeye State this fall. Last season, the Wildcats lost regular season games to rival Mentor (Ohio) and St. Xavier but later avenged the Mentor loss in the playoffs. St. Ignatius also ousted Cleveland-area rival and 2010 Division I state champ St. Edward (Lakewood, Ohio) in the postseason for its second win over the Eagles on the season.

Team Strengths: St. Ignatius has most of the puzzle pieces in place for another title run with the main concern being at quarterback, where junior Mike LaManna (6-1, 175) is expected to take over for senior Eric Williams. All-Ohio third team running back Tim McVey (5-10, 180), also a defensive back/kick returner, will key the offense behind a veteran line anchored by four returning starters, including touted sophomore Jimmy Byrne (6-4, 275), who has already been offered by new Ohio State coach Urban Meyer. Returning at wide receiver is Conor Hennessey (5-9, 175). Junior Kevin Kavalec, an All-Ohio first team selection, and junior defensive back Tom Fanning will lead the defense.

Another Ohio team to watch: Archbishop Moeller (Cincinnati) tackled a challenging schedule last season and went 9-4 with losses to FAB 50 No. 3 Trinity (Louisville, Ky.), Indiana Class 3A champion Cathedral (Indianapolis), 2010 Ohio Division I state champ St. Edward (Lakewood, Ohio) and a split with rival St. Xavier (Cincinnati). Moeller also handed D-I runner-up Pickerington Central (Pickerington, Ohio) a regular season loss. Moeller had a talented junior class this season, which could give the seven-time D-I state champion a good shot at an eighth crown. Two college D-I prospects will lead the returnees — quarterback Spencer Iacovone (6-1, 205) and offensive tackle Alex Gall (6-5, 300). Iacovone passed for 1,976 yards and 22 TDs and rushed for 579 yards and 11 scores in 2011.