NEEDS A BIG SEASON FROM:
THE OFFENSIVE LINE
All the talent at the skill position goes for naught without a top-notch offensive line providing the right blocking schemes. That's no different with the Ascenders, who lost all five starters off last fall's 9-1 campaign.
Those five starting lineman signed with Division I programs.
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So searching for their replacements became the priority, and it's integral to have a superb line for IMG's success this fall.
During fall camp, head coach Kevin Wright had the fun problem of eight players fighting for five starting spots.
It's a mix of juniors (Cesar Ruiz, Robert Hainsey and Grant Miller), seniors (Tyler Gerald, Ray Bordley, Michael McAlvin and David Weinstock) and a sophomore (Curtis Dunlap) jockeying for a starting role.
"It's the area, coming out of spring, that we felt like we needed to continue to improve on," Wright said.
The healthy competition gives the Ascenders depth on the offensive line, a luxury not usually replicated at the high school level.
Nonetheless, that depth will be leaned on for supplying the skill guys the chance to shine.
WINGMAN: ISAAC NAUTA, sr., tight end
With 37 college offers, the native Georgian has his pick for college ball. But first, he'll be viewed as the go-to option for quarterback Shea Patterson in IMG Academy's passing game. Standing 6-foot-4
"He's like our (New England Patriots tight end Rob) Gronkowski," Wright said.
Nauta said Gronk is someone he likes to model his game after. Meshing with Patterson hasn't been an issue, either, despite the signal-caller arriving after the spring.
"The guy is definitely elite," Nauta said. "I think we should have a huge year."
IMPACT NEWCOMER: DRAKE DAVIS, sr., wide receiver
The Baton Rouge, La., didn't play football last year, but is a freakish athlete with the skills to make a run as a decathlete for the Olympics and is in the U.S. soccer player pool. While Bo Jackson-level thoughts might seem lofty, the 6-foot-2, 212-pound Davis should stand out on the field this fall.
DEEP AT: TIGHT END
Led by Nauta (37 college offers), this unit has three viable options that also features junior Tre' McKitty (Miami commit).
THIN AT: SECONDARY
Despite Saivion Smith (LSU commit, top-rated senior defensive back in nation) returning late in camp, the unit took a hit when Khalil Ladler (26 college offers) tore his ACL in the summer.
ST. JOHN'S COLLEGE (D.C.) L, 35-2
at Prestonwood Chr. (Texas) W, 69-36
FT. LAUDERDALE DILLARD W, 61-0
at Montverde Academy W, 43-7
ST. PETER'S PREP (N.J.) W, 36-20
MIAMI GARDENS PACE W, 61-0
at Lake Minneola W, 49-0
JAX. TRINITY CHR. W, 28-7
at Clearwater Cen. Cath. W, 50-21
HIALEAH CHAMP. CATH. W, 48-8
5 at DeSoto (Texas)^
19 at Bergen Catholic (N.J.)#
2 ST. JOSEPH'S (N.J.)
9 SOUTHERN LAB (LA.)
23 PARAMUS (N.J.)
31 at Eastern Christian Academy (MD.)%
6 Triple A Academy (Texas)
Games start at 7:00 p.m., unless noted
#-- 1 p.m. game | *-- 2 p.m. game | ^-- 3 p.m. game | %-- 6:30 p.m. game
HOME GAMES IN ALL CAPS
A team featuring the top rated seniors at quarterback, tight end and defensive back, and two coveted defensive lineman are why IMG Academy is starting off the year as a national title contending team. However, the daunting schedule could deter those plans toward the end of the season.
BY THE NUMBERS
2 -- Preseason USA Today Super 25 national ranking.
4 -- Rated fourth toughest schedule in country by MaxPreps.
11 -- Number of Division I commits on the 2015 roster.
Kevin Wright, first year; 188-63 overall in 12 seasons.