Video: Early Contenders presented by Shock DoctorWe set the tone for 2018 by looking at high school football's elite.
: Kevin Wright
Last season: 8-0, No. 2 national ranking, outscored the opposition by an average margin of 21.5 points per game
Since 2013: 46-3 (First season of varsity football was in 2013)
Famous alumni/players: QB Deondre Francois, Florida State QB; Martin Gramatica, former NFL kicker; Michael Beasley, NBA player; Bo Scarbrough, Alabama RB; Andrew Benintendi, Boston Red Sox player.
RB Trey Sanders (5-11.5, 215, Sr.) Star power (According to 247Sports):
5-star recruits — 2; 4-star recruits — 11; 3-star recruits — 12
— The No. 1 rated running back in the Class of 2019.DE Nolan Smith (6-3, 230, Sr.)
— The 5-star Georgia commit is the No. 1 player overall on 247sports.RB Noah Cain (5-10.5, 210, Sr.)
— Cain, the No. 4 rater RB in the Class of 2019, and Sanders give IMG Academy the best backfield in the country.
OLB/S Jaleel McRae (6-2, 230, Sr.)
— The 2019 Florida State commit transferred from New Smyrna Beach (Fla.) and is one of the best defensive players in the state.
OT Evan Neal (6-7.5, 390, Sr.)
— One of the most imposing players in high school football checks in the Top 50 overall from the Class of 2019.
KEY GAMESAug. 24
— at Pine-Richland (Gibsonia, Pa.)Sept. 7
— at Liberty (Henderson, Nev.), 2018 Polynesian ClassicSept. 15
— at No. 6 St. John's (Washington, D.C.)Sept. 21
— at No. 2 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)Sept. 29
— vs. Northwestern (Miami)Nov. 2
— at No. 21 Hoover (Ala.)
• Year in, year out IMG Academy has one of the most talented teams in the country and that won't change in 2018. The Ascenders' biggest strengths are in the trenches and in the backfield. They have three offensive linemen who check in the Top 150 overall. Sanders and Cain form the best pair of running backs in high school football.
• The defense is loaded and it all starts Smith, the 2019 Georgia commit. The linebacking corps will fill out with 2019 Michigan commit Charles Thomas
• IMG added a couple of out-of-state transfers to help out at wide receiver, including St. John Bosco's Josh Delgado
and Memphis Central's Shamar Nash
, both 4-star recruits from the Class of 2019.
• The biggest question mark for IMG Academy heading into 2018 appears to be at the quarterback position. Upland transfer David Baldwin
and returner Bryson Lucero
both will be in line for reps this season.