As the 2013 season approaches, Class 8A is looking as loaded as ever. Here's my early breakdown of the state's largest football enrollment class:
Mount Carmel — Can Mount Carmel come back and win back-to-back 8A state titles? First of all, for classification and polling purposes, the Caravan are actually showing to be in Class 7A per the recently-released IHSA tentative classification. Yet from looking at the numbers, I still see the Caravan in Class 8A come state playoff time.
Veteran head coach Frank Lenti had a ton of talent back in 2012. Now the offense needs to break in a new quarterback in senior Marko Boricich, yet Boricich (who is also a standout baseball prospect) looks more than capable of running the Caravan's veer rand play action passing game. Senior RB Matt Domer (Illinois verbal commit) leads a deep group of backs and receivers while senior OL Nate Oquendo and senior Kyle Thomas lead the offensive line group this fall.
The defense has some big-time talent, including senior DT Enoch Smith Jr., senior DT Steve Richardson and senior DB Deontae Brown. The Caravan seem to be everyone's preseason No. 1 ranked team, but in this class, anything can happen.
Others to Watch in Class 8A
Potential Southern 8A bracket:
Marist — The Redhawks will once again be a handful coming out of the East Suburban Conference this season. Marist will be loaded on offense in 2013 behind senior QB Jack Donegan, along with senior Notre Dame verbal commit Nic Weishar, senior RB Peter Andreotti and junior WR Flynn Nagel. Marist hasn't been able to get out of the first round of the 8A state playoff the past few years, yet once they do, they could be primed for a long run as early as this season.
Simeon — The Wolverines might not have the big-time recruits and names everyone has accustomed to seeing, but Simeon still has talent and depth. I'm watching the early portion of the Simeon schedule closely this fall, which included Homewood-Floosmoor, Detroit Catholic and Crete-Monee. All three games are on the road.
Downstate — Head coach Brandon Joggerst has the state's top defensive end in senior Dewayne Hendrix along with D1 level recruits in senior DB Micquell Cotton, senior OL Dan Ryan and 2016 RB Kentrail Moran.
Southwest Suburban Blue conference:
Bolingbrook — Aaron Bailey might be gone to Illinois this season, but the Raiders still have plenty left in the tank.
The defense features senior DB Parrker Westphal along with junior DE Micah Dew-Treadway and sophomore LB Tuf Borland. The offense brings back an experience offensive line, including senior RB Jaden Huff and junior QB Quincy Woods. Woods was able to get valuable varsity experience while Bailey was injured last season, and he brings plenty to the Raiders' veer option game.
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Homewood-Floosmoor and head coach Craig Buzea always have talent and numbers. Keep an eye out for senior RB Vashon Nutt, along with a very good offensive line. Sandburg and head coach Dave Wierzal will bring back starters in 2013, yet the Eagles also need to rebuild if they want to see one of the conference's top defenses from a season ago.
West Suburban Silver — The likes of Hinsdale Central, Oak Park-River Forest, Lyons Township, Proviso West and anyone coming out of the Silver in 2013 is a threat. Hinsdale Central features two D1 recruits in senior TE Ian Bunting (Michigan) and senior OC Brian Allen (Michigan State). Oak Park River-Forest brings back 12 starters from a year ago, including senior RB/DB Jamal Baggett, senior WR/DB Xavier Rowa and junior QB Lloyd Yates. Lyons Township has a few promising juniors in running back Leonard Ross and junior QB Tom Fiedler. Proviso West and head coach Famous Hulbert had his Panthers looking bigger, stronger and even better this summer compared to their 2012 team.
The greater Naperville area — Throw in the likes of Neuqua Valley, Waubonsie Valley, Naperville Central and Naperville North and one of these schools will come out of the first few rounds as a contender. Guaranteed.
The potential Northern 8A bracket:
Glenbard North — The Panthers, the 8A runner-up last fall, will be a strong team again in 2013. Back is 2012 Gatorade Player of the Year in senior RB Justin Jackson and a speedy and well-schooled defense.
Maine South — Don't buy the talk of the Hawks being potentially down. Maine South has a handful of capable quarterbacks already on hand ready to take the place of Matt Alviti and a group of solid receivers. Senior OT Brennan Brosnan is verbally committed to Vanderbilt.
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Stevenson — The Patriots have a handful of standout players with varsity experience in 2013. Junior QB Willie Bourbon will lead the Patriots offense along with senior WR/DB Matt Morrissey, junior WR Cam Green and senior OL Zack Novoselsky. Head coach Bill McNamara might have his best team since taking over the head coaching position back in 2010.
The Mid Suburbans — Head coach Bill Modelski welcomes back 10 starters this fall. Fremd is loaded with experience, which includes having a big offensive line along with senior QB Sam Beutler. Beutler will be a rare four-year varsity starter in 2013 for the Vikings. Schaumburg is looking for a much improved 2013 season as the Saxons welcome back 12 starters in 2013, including standout QB Stacey Smith, senior RB Sadarriss Patterson and senior OL/DL Matt Zolper. All three Saxons have multiple years of experience on the varsity level.