Monday, August 03, 2009

PrepNation 101 Preseason Countdown: No. 1 St. Thomas Aquinas

PrepNation.com continues the most comprehensive package of preseason high school football rankings ever published. We are counting down the PrepNation 101 Preseason High School Football Rankings, from No. 101 to No. 26, leading up to the release of the official preseason National Prep Poll on August 3.


1. St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
Last season: 15-0, Class 5A state champion and National Prep Poll champion
Coach: George Smith
Key players: RB Giovanni Bernard (5-8, 200, Sr.), RB James White (5-11, 195, Sr.), QB Turner Baty (6-2, 190, Sr.), QB Jake Rudock (6-2, 175, Jr.), WR Phil Dorsett (5-9, 170, Jr.), OL Brandon Linder (6-6, 275, Sr.), OL Jermaine Barton (6-7, 280, Sr.), DL Matt Stokes (6-2, 250, Sr.), LB Vinnie Mauro (6-2, 215, Sr.), LB John Baglia (6-1, 215, Sr.), DB-WR Lamarcus Joyner (5-8, 170, Sr.), DB Brian Robinson (6-0, 190, Sr.), DB Cody Riggs (5-11, 170, Sr.), DB Keion Payne (6-0, 170, Sr.), K-P Mike Palardy (6-2, 175, Sr.)
Outlook: Thirteen starters, including eight players who signed with Division I programs, graduated from the Raiders’ fifth state title and first National Prep Poll championship team. That’s the bad news. The good news is the incoming senior class has at least 12 Division I prospects. It’s hard to imagine the 2009 Raiders being as dominant in all phases as the team that came before it (Aquinas won by an average margin of 46-8 in ’08). But there is no reason to expect them to lose a game, either. Smith says fall drills will decide the pecking order at QB between Baty and Rudock, who are both Division I prospects. Baty transferred to Aquinas last year from Menlo-Atherton (Calif.) while Rudock saw some varsity action as a sophomore during mop-up time. “They’re both hard-working kids,” Smith says. Aquinas has only three returning offensive starters, and two of them are running backs. Bernard, who gained 1,528 yards on 160 carries (9.5 average) with 18 touchdowns last season, is more of a between-the-tackles type of back. White, on the other hand, is more dangerous in the open field. He had 960 rushing yards on 127 carries (7.5 average) and also scored 18 touchdowns. Both starting receivers graduated leaving a talented underclassman, Dorsett, as perhaps the top option this year. He has excellent speed and might be the top college prospect in the Raiders’ junior class. Blue chip recruit Linder is the lone starter returning on the offensive line, but Barton leads a group of talented blockers with great size ready to step up and win starting jobs. The defense, which has six starters back, features arguably the best secondary in all of high school football. There are three returning starters plus highly rated newcomer Joyner, an all-county transfer from Southwest Miami High. He, Robinson, Payne, and Riggs all are rated three stars or higher by rivals.com. Riggs, the son of former NFL running back Gerald Riggs, led the team last season with eight interceptions and 24 passes broken up. Returning linebackers Mauro and Baglia each totaled double-digit tackles for losses. The Raiders will have an edge on most opponents in the kicking game. Palardy, who can handle both kicking and punting, made 3-6 field goals and 76-78 PATs as a junior and has accepted a scholarship offer from Tennessee. Once again, the Raiders have a schedule befitting a national power. For the second straight year, they open the season in Ohio, playing Columbus-area power Upper Arlington at Ohio Stadium on August 29. On October 2, the Raiders host Byrnes (S.C.) in a much-anticipated showdown between the preseason No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country. “Anytime you have success, your bar raises,” says Smith. “Including what the players demand of themselves.”

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

SHOULD HAVE A GREAT YEAR, I CAN SEE ONLY ONE PROBLEM BYRNES. WILL BE A GREAT GAME

Anonymous said...

No quarterback, weak at WR and average DL. Northwestern would beat them by 10-14 points! Northwestern is the only program in the country that can lose 25 D1 players in 2 years and still blow everyone away!

Florida said...

Anonymous, ur an idiot. Just look at what u said, u sound real stupid. They lost 3 games last year, so they didnt "blow everyone away!". But hey, i like northwestern and aquinas. As long as a florida school wins the national championship, everything straight...

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