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.
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.