That's my first impression when looking at how the 2013 Class 7A field could potentially shake out come state playoff time. Potentially? The actual playoff classes aren't technically set until playoff pairings night in late October, yet here are some teams to consider when trying to sort out Class 7A.
Glenbard West. The undefeated 2012 Class 7A state champs have been in state-title contention over the past few seasons under head coach Chad Hetlett. The Hilltoppers welcome back eight starters this season including five starters back on defense. Early on, the offense for West will rely on the backfield of senior running back Scott Andrews along with senior full back Devonte Toney. Senior quarterback Drew Vogg will get the start, yet the Hilltoppers will still look to establish its power run game first and foremost. The defense is led by senior safety Hayden Carlson (5-foot-11, 185 pounds), and the back seven is a strength. Biggest issue? Both lines need to be reloaded with just North Carolina State verbal commit senior offensive tackle Eric Shute (6-foot-5, 275 pounds) as the lone returning starter back on either side of the line. Senior kicker/punter Hayden Lekacz is verbally committed to Stanford.
Others to consider?
Lincoln-Way East. The 2012 Class 7A runner-up, much like Glenbard West, needs to reload a bit as standout quarterback Tommy Fuessel (Northwestern) is gone, along with 17 other starters from last year's team. Yet the Griffins under head coach Rob Zvonar just reloaded, and senior center Nick Allegretti (6-foot-4, 280 pounds), an Illinois verbal commit, leads the offensive line. East always has bodies and talent, and expect them to make another run in the south suburbs and beyond in 2013. East looked very solid this summer and has a big group of offensive linemen in 2013.
Lake Zurich. Simply put, the Bears are loaded on defense with eight returning starters back from one of the state's top unit's in 2012 (they also return six offensive starters). Syracuse verbal commit senior linebacker Colton Moskal (6-foot-0, 204 pounds) along with senior running back/linebacker Sean Lynch and senior quarterback/linebacker Noah Allgood will be key names to watch in 2013.
Rockford Boylan. The Titans (remember them?) are always a team to watch in the northern part of the Class 7A bracket. Keep an eye on senior quarterback Brock Stull along with up-and-coming junior athlete Dembry Croft (6-foot-4, 190 pounds).
Wheaton North. The Falcons priority this season is to get past the quarter-final round, which is where the playoff road ended for them in 2012. Back is standout senior quarterback Clayton Thorson (6-foot-4, 197 pounds), and also watch out for senior wide receiver Matt Biegalski (6-foot-2, 190 pounds), as North's offense should be as potent as it was a year ago.
Benet Academy. The Redwings stunned everyone in 2012 as head coach Pat New was able to turn around his team from a 1-8 season in 2011 to a 10-2 record last season. This year, the offense will be led by junior standout quarterback Jack Beneventi (6-foot-6, 190 pounds) along with senior running back/defensive back Porter Ontko (6-foot-0, 188 pounds). Beneventi has scholarship offers so far from Illinois, Iowa, Louisville, Massachusetts, Notre Dame and Western Michigan. The biggest question? Can the Redwings reload on a defense that graduated several key starters from a season ago?
Downers Grove North. This team was yet another great success story, as the Trojans bounced back in a huge way in 2012. North and head coach John Wander welcome back 14 starters (seven offense, seven defense), including junior quarterback David Edwards (6-foot-6, 215 pounds) along with senior wide receiver/linebacker Richard Olekanma (6-foot-1, 215 pounds) and senior tight end/defensive end Vontae Diggs (6-foot-4, 200 pounds). Edwards, a tight end recruit who runs the Trojans option attack has early offers from Illinois, Indiana and Vanderbilt. Both Olekanma and Diggs gave Toledo verbal commitments earlier this summer.
St. Rita and Wheaton Warrenville South. Both have been traditional powers, and both had rare down seasons in 2012. Expect the Mustangs and the Tigers to be chomping at the bit to get back into state-title contention. Do not count either school out of anything in 2013.
[MORE: 2014 Illinois recruiting update]
Enrollment bubble teams?
Mount Carmel. What? Yes, according to the preseason preliminary IHSA classes, the Caravan are, at least for now, considered a 7A team. However when it's all said and done I don't see them in 7A, but hey, don't blame me ... blame The Man for now.
Maine South. See above. For now, the Hawks are considered 7A per the IHSA numbers. I don't see this sticking come playoff pairings night, but you've been warned. Also, the rumored demise of the Class 8A power has been greatly exaggerated.
Providence Catholic. The Celtics have some impressive offensive skills back, and this team is always a 7A/6A bubble team that can make an impact in either class.
Batavia. Like Providence, the Bulldogs always dance on the enrollment bubble between 6A and 7A. Class 7A hasn't been good for Batavia, yet this is a team with 12 returning starters back in 2013.