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.)
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.