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 this fall.
This week’s team: Armwood (Seffner, Fla.)
Projected 2012 Preseason Ranking: Top 25. This team’s positioning could be negatively impacted if harsh sanctions are handed down by the Florida High School Athletic Association at the conclusion of an ongoing investigation about the residency of players on last year’s team. On the field, the Hawks are loaded with returning players at the skill positions, but they will need to replace numerous top linemen. Armwood doesn’t have as much back overall as other Florida teams like Manatee (Bradenton, Fla.) or Miami Central (Miami), which is the team Armwood beat to win its state title. But coach Sean Callahan is a proven winner and those skill players are special.
Team Strengths: There aren’t many teams in the nation that will have a dynamic duo like Leon McQuay III and Alvin Bailey. McQuay, who’s No. 34 in the ESPN 150, is a ball-hawking safety. He also could see more time on offense next season. Meanwhile, Bailey is No. 49 in the ESPN 150. He caught six passes for 112 yards and one score when Armwood beat FAB 50 No. 8 Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) 20-17 last year, handing the Gaels their only loss. He later switched to quarterback due to injuries and is expected to be back at wideout as a senior. Quarterback Darryl Richardson could be another strength while upcoming sophomore Keylaun Edwards could be another game-breaker. Edwards, who is the younger brother of graduating starter Wade Edwards, joined his brother as well as McQuay and Bailey as part of Armwood’s school-record-breaking 4x100 relay team. On defense, two leading tacklers who should return will be linebacker Warren Williams and defensive back Antonio McCullough.
Another Florida team to watch: We’ve already written up Manatee in this series and don’t want to do just a few sentences about another potential powerhouse like Miami Central or Plant (Tampa, Fla.), Armwood’s big local rival. So we’ll focus on a Tampa that could surprise in Wharton. The Wildcats were 6-6 last year, appeared in the Class 8A playoffs and will be led by receiver-cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, the No. 4 recruit in the ESPN 150. In addition to Hargreaves, Wharton will return most of its roster, including 6-foot-6 sophomore quarterback Chase Litton (2,056 yards, 10 touchdowns) and leading tackler Rocky Enos.