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August 1, 2011

RivalsHigh 100 Countdown: Nos. 45-41

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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.

Last Monday, RivalsHigh.com began its 2011 countdown, 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. 10 - just 10 days from the start of the season.

After that, we will wait until Sept. 5 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.

Preseason 2011 RivalsHigh 100 Rankings | Post your thoughts about the teams

Top 100 countdown
No. 45 Goose Creek, South Carolina

COACH: Chuck Reedy
LAST SEASON: 13-1
FINAL 2010 RANKING: No. 36 in RivalsHigh 100

KEEP AN EYE ON: The team's offensive firepower. Last season, Goose Creek rolled up nearly 600 points of offense - and it was nearly all on the ground. Goose Creek had four ball carriers with more than 100 attempts last year, chewing up nearly 4,400 yards on the ground and scoring 63 of the team's 80 total touchdowns. With two of its three leading rushers back on the roster, it could mean a trip to the state final.

STRENGTH: It is pretty obvious that the offensive line and the running attack is what helps make this team go. The stats speak to both - with over 600 carries last season, the team still averaged nearly seven yards per carry and 335 yards per game. With the ability to break big runs and keep the clock moving in its direction, it is no small wonder why the team has elevated from a solid South Carolina team to a nationally-recognized group.

STAR OF THE SHOW: T.J. Burrell is a three-star linebacker committed to Clemson and Tramel Terry is a junior committed to Georgia, but the stars this year will be the tandem of quarterback Jaquan Marsh and fullback Virgil Smalls. Smalls is anything but small, checking in at 5-foot-11 and 260 pounds. The back piled up nearly 1,000 yards and 21 touchdowns last year, while Marsh approached 800 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns to go along his with 10 touchdowns and nearly 1,000 yards through the air.

DEFENSIVE DANDY: Goose Creek should be better defensively this season - and it may need to be. The team gave up a total of 255 points last year, but 154 of them came in its toughest four games. The team was able to dominate inferior competition but gave up a lot of points against quality squads.

Top 100 countdown
No. 44 Mullen, Colorado

COACH: Dave Logan
LAST SEASON: 14-0, won Class 5A state championship
FINAL 2010 RANKING: No. 16 in RivalsHigh 100

KEEP AN EYE ON: The rest of Colorado. Mullen will be the favorite to run the state again and, as per norm, it will be the rest of the state that is used to judge this team. The Mustangs should have the best defense in the state - again. And it will have the most talented players on offense - again. If there was a team that needed an out-of-state validation, it is this one.

STRENGTH: Being the best team in the state by far is the strength of the team. It should not be in a game closer than two scores - if not more - all season. The defense is generally one of the better units in the country but it is turning over a spectacular linebacker group that could be tough to replace. The offense could score more points this year than last.

STAR OF THE SHOW: The buildup for Cyler Miles' senior year is now here. The quarterback has been a star at the school for a few years but has played in the shadows of some very talented players. This year, the focus is solely on the four-star quarterback who can do a little bit of everything.

STREAKING: Mullen enters this season on a 33-game win streak that doesn't look to be in jeopardy. There have been discussions from numerous high school promoters to get Mullen to go out of state but there has not been a match made. It was rumored that Mullen was to play Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral, but that fell through as well. With few out-of-state wins and little in-state depth, the win streak is starting to have a hollow sound around the country.

Top 100 countdown
No. 43 Moeller, Ohio
COACH: John Rodenburg
LAST SEASON: 7-4
FINAL 2010 RANKING: No. 16 in Ohio

KEEP AN EYE ON: Which player steps up for the offense. Three of the four team captains for Moeller this year will be on defense and the strength of the offense is very likely to be on the offensive line. Which player steps up alongside three-star receiver Monty Madaris to be a playmaker on offense will be interesting to watch. John Tanner could be a solid player from the tight end position, but so far it appears that Madaris is the only offensive player that wants the ball on every play.

STRENGTH: This may be one of the fastest teams that Moeller has thrown onto the field. It could also be the smartest, and that could play a factor. With three members of the defense inside the Top 10 academically in the class, it speaks volumes for what the kids are doing outside of the football field - but those smarts could also translate onto the field.

STAR OF THE SHOW: There are several players on the field for Moeller that will likely end up with Division I offers, but the best may be junior offensive lineman Alex Gall. The 6-foot-5 prospect took home MVP honors at the Ohio State camp this summer and has seen his recruiting pick up. Standing alongside Matt Noble on the offensive line, the pair could push the team into the winners circle of the GCL-South.

SPEED ON THE LINE: Moeller is a team that has traditionally been a "line up the ball and smash it down the field" kind of team. This year, according to coach John Rodenburg, the plan may be to pull the linemen and use the athleticism to put some new plays into the playbook.

QUOTABLE: "We love to mash people," Rodenburg said. "We always will, but we just want to do it faster. Dictating play is our goal, but speed kills. We are faster than we have been in the past and we will be able to do more with our offense and defense because of it."

Top 100 countdown
No. 42 Grayson, Georgia

COACH: Mickey Conn
LAST SEASON: 10-4
FINAL 2010 RANKING: No. 9 in Georgia

KEEP AN EYE ON: How the defense shapes up. Coach Mickey Conn has been a defensive-minded coach in his tenure at Grayson. This year might be not different, but the names back in the fold are still unknown. The Rams will return just two starters on the defensive side of the ball and filling nine spots could be a tall order.

STRENGTH: For a team that has regularly won big games scoring fewer than 10 points, the group on the offensive side of the ball could be explosive. Yes, the Grayson Rams could be explosive. The emergence of quarterback Nick Schuessler has Conn thinking about installing some more spread sets - as opposed to its normal Wing-T base. Junior tailback Wayne Gallman and senior receiver Korey Jones give the team some more weapons that it is used to.

STAR OF THE SHOW: Despite the talent on offense, all eyes will be on defensive player Robert Nkemdiche. The 6-foot-5 player can play down on the line as well as run in space and could slide to linebacker if needed. He showed the ability to do a little bit of everything at the recent National Select 7-on-7 in Hoover, Ala.

LINEBACKER TURNOVER: Grayson will need to fill a major gap at linebacker. The four players who manned the positions last year will be playing college football at N.C. State, Ole Miss, Coastal Carolina and Mt. Union. Conn said he is looking for help at the inside linebacker positions where there are about five guys competing for two spots.

QUOTABLE: "It is still our philosophy to control the clock and control the ball," Conn said. "But I have to tell you, I have never had this many weapons on offense. I have a lot of options here this year."

Top 100 countdown
No. 41 Oaks Christian, California

COACH: Bill Redell
LAST SEASON: 12-2
FINAL 2010 RANKING: No. 45 in RivalsHigh 100

KEEP AN EYE ON: The first month of the season. Last season, Oaks Christian moved up its competition and, in the process, proved it belonged in the national rankings and was not just a team that beat up on inferior programs. This season, it will test the sustainability of the program with games in the first month against a ranked Bellevue (Wash.) High team, ranked St. Bonaventure and nearly ranked Westlake - all in its first five games. Those three games will likely determine the totem pole of the Marmonte League.

STRENGTH: The Lions return a lot of quality starters. The team is usually stocked with front line talent, but this season it flat out returns a lot of good football players. Defensively, this may be the best team in the league - if not Southern California - with Marcus Piechowski, Devoreaux Stewart, Logan Quiroz, Ben Johnson and sophomore Marcus Jones all returning on the line. Cameron Judge and Carlos Mendoza both are back at two of the linebacker spots and Jordan Payton and Ishmael Adams are back in the secondary. The team also added Malik Cyphers at cornerback and Tyrone Faanono at linebacker as transfers.

STAR OF THE SHOW: Even in the Rivals100 player ranking, it is hard to distinguish which of two players is better. Payton comes in at No. 96 nationally and Adams is rated No. 98 nationally. Both will be in the defensive backfield, and both can factor in on offense and have offers from all over the country. Those two will not battle for the spotlight but willingly share, so long as the team is pointed in the direction of a CIF Bowl bid.

LESS HIGH PROFILE: The team has had its share of headlines in recent years with Jimmy Clausen and Marc Tyler being five-star players and more than 50 prospects heading to colleges in the last decade. It has also become a place for celebrity kids to enroll. Casey Matthews, Nick Montana, Trevor Gretzky and Trey Smith have all walked the halls and given facetime to the school. While most of the famous sons are gone, there is still plenty of attention to be paid to the school - just less paparazzi.

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