Preseason Top 20: No. 3 Glenbard West

Justice Odom is just one of many speedsters on Glenbard West. Scott Powers/ESPNChicago

Last season: 10-2 overall, 5-1 West Suburban Silver, lost in the Class 7A quarterfinals to Wheaton Warrenville South, ranked No. 10 in the final ESPNChicago.com 2010 poll

Season ahead: Whatever Glenbard West achieves this season, it will be done quickly.

While the Hilltoppers do possess some size, especially in Division I linemen Tommy Schutt and Johnny Caspers, they'll be driven by their speed this season.

"If this team can play consistently, it can be a special group," Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet said. "We're fast. We're just really fast."

Quarterback Justice Odom is fast. Running backs Avery Balogh, Kendall Johnson and Joe Zito are fast. Tight end Nathan Marcus is fast. Linebacker Andrew Larkin and defensive lineman Kendell Kimble are fast. You get the picture. The Hilltoppers will have speed all over the field.

Glenbard West may open up its offense a bit with dual-threat quarterback Odom running the show, but it still plans to run the ball 45-plus times a game. Balogh, Johnson, Zito and a few others will all have their shots.

"I think part of our success is having a number of guys back there," Hetlet said. "One back may get hot, and he may get more touches, but we got 4-5 kids."

The offensive line will be anchored by Caspers, who is 6-3 and 275 pounds. He's being recruited by a number of top programs, including Arizona and Nebraska. The defensive line is led by Schutt, who recently committed to Penn State.

Star power: Senior defensive tackle Tommy Schutt is considered Illinois' second best prospect by ESPN. He recently committed to Penn State. He had 67 tackles, 23 tackles for a loss and 15 sacks last season. "I think from a playing standpoint, Penn State is getting a kid who isn't like a lot of others kids coming out of high school with his size and athleticism," Hetlet said. "He's powerful and strong enough. He's got the physical tools to play right away."

Breakout performer: First-year starting quarterback Justice Odom gives Glenbard West an element it hasn't had before. Odom not only has a strong arm and can pass the ball, but he also has speed and can run it. "I think he's going to surprise a lot of people," Hetlet said. "I think he could end up being one of the better quarterbacks in the state this year."

Defensive difference-maker: Linebacker Andrew Larkin made his share of key defensive plays last season, and that should be the case again this season. He's drawing interest from a number of Ivy League programs.

Newcomer to watch: Sophomore Hayden Carlson has a chance to be a special one for the Hilltoppers. He will start at free safety this season. "You have to be a man to play that position," Hetlet said. "He's legit."

Schedule breakdown: Glenbard West opens the season with two-time defending 7A state champion Wheaton Warrenville South, and it doesn't get much easier from there. The West Suburban Silver should be among the state's top conferences again. The Hilltoppers travel to Lyons in the third week and host York in Week 8. "In the Silver, there's no down year," Hetlet said. "It's not just something I'm saying. That's the truth."

Key game: Aug. 28 at Wheaton Warrenville South -- There are plenty of reasons to be excited about this game. Both teams are ranked in the area's top three. They've met in the playoffs the last two years with Wheaton Warrenville South winning in the 7A title game two years ago and in the quarterfinals last season. Finally, the game is going to be televised on ESPN2. "It's important because it's Wheaton South," Hetlet said. "They've ended our season the last two years in the quarterfinals and the state championship game. Whether we win or lose, it won't make or break our season, but it's exciting."

What they're saying: "We need to win for it to be a rivalry," said Hetlet of Wheaton Warrenville South.