League: Class 4A Southwest
Head coach: Kenny Sanchez, third season (30-0)
2016 record: 15-0 (6-0 Southwest League, first)
Returning starters: Five offense, two defense
Base offensive set: Spread
Base defensive set: 4-3
Top offensive players: QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson (Sr.); TE Brevin Jordan (Sr.); WR Jalen Nailor (Sr.); OL Jacob Isaia (Sr.)
Top defensive players: LB Palaie Gaoteote (Sr.); DE Adam Plant (Sr.); DT Isaac Tuia (Sr.); LB Jeff Ulofoshio (Sr.)
Key losses: QB Tate Martell; RB Biaggio Ali Walsh; S Bubba Bolden; LB Farrell Hester; DT Haskell Garrett; S Greg Francis; CB Alex Perry; WR/DB Austin Arnold
Outlook: Losing even one Division I player to graduation would be enough to make most teams temper their expectations.
For the Gaels, losing 10 players to FBS schools means little. Sanchez lists the his expectations for the team: “Win our non-conference games. Win our conference. Win state. Win national title.”
Gorman returns just two starters on defense, but Gaoteote may be the nation’s best high school linebacker. He has committed to Southern California after leading the Gaels with 68 tackles last season.
Plant (25 tackles, two sacks) has gotten plenty of Division I interest, and Ulofoshio was second on the team with six sacks last season. The primary defensive concern is the secondary with Bolden (Southern California), Perry (Arizona State) and Francis (UNR) all graduating. The Gaels dismissed Greg Oliver, who would have been the team’s lone returnee in the secondary.
The offensive losses also were huge, especially three-year starting quarterback Martell, who now is at Ohio State. Martell was the state player of the year after passing for 2,362 yards and 41 TDs and rushing for 1,257 yards and 21 TDs.
Thompson-Robinson is a more-than-capable replacement, but Martell’s leadership will be missed. Thompson-Robinson has yet to start a varsity game at quarterback, but already has committed to UCLA. Jordan (27 catches, 501 yards, nine TDS) has committed to Miami, and Nailor (52 catches, 929 yards, 14 TDs) to Arizona State and they will give the first-year starting quarterback two outstanding targets.