Coach’s poll: Macomb Dakota 59; Romeo 50; Utica Eisenhower 49; Warren Mott 41; Sterling Heights Stevenson 37; Mount Clemens Chippewa Valley 36.
Macomb Dakota (9-3, 4-1)
Strength: Experience, depth
Top players: RB Kaiser Carleton; QB Brett Droski; WR Jalen Hall; LB Nick Carl, DT Coty Bastian
Outlook: Nothing much will change under first-year head coach Greg Baur. The Cougars will be able to run the ball with Carleton, who is back from a knee injury. He’s a three-year starter and Droski is a two-year starter. Baur is in his 12th season at Dakota and knows what to expect. The Cougars are after their fifth straight MAC Red title and odds are they have a chance to make it happen. Eight are back on offense and six on defense. “This could be the best offense we’ve ever had,’’ said Baur.
► Related: Mick McCabe’s team No. 5: Macomb Dakota
Utica Eisenhower (7-4, 3-2)
Strength: Quarterback, defensive front seven
Top players: RB Jack Provencher; DT Salvatore Vultaggio; QB Max Wittwer; OL/DL Matt Surma; DE Logan Smith.
Outlook: Coach Chris Smith returns seven starters on defense so that side of the ball won’t be a problem. However, the offensive line must replace five starters from a year ago. Wittwer is an experienced returning starter and the beef comes from 265-pound Vultaggio and the 260-pound Surma.
Chippewa Valley (7-3, 3-2)
Strength: Skill and athleticism
Top players: RB/SS Darian Greeley; DL/TE Ryan Mullen; WR/DB Maurice McBride; Jr. DB/RB Cardell Snorton; RB/LB Steven Charles.
Outlook: The Big Reds lost a whopping 38 seniors from last year’s team and all but four starters. Many of the top players will have to play both ways. Greeley should have a big year if he stays healthy. Speed and athleticism is all over the field, but CV will be small and has to find some linemen to keep the quarterback upright.
Romeo (13-1, 5-0)
Strength: Offensive line.
Top players: FS/WR Kade Messner; LB/TE Bryan Carie; OL Joey Schneider; OL Louis Thom; DB Andrew Smith; WB Austen Malczewski.
Outlook: The defending Division 1 state champions move back up from the White to the Red with a target on its back. Romeo has a 12-year streak of making the playoffs and despite heavy losses look to get back to Ford Field. Five starters return on defense with others who saw playing time. Three return on offense with six others having seen significant action. Schneider weighs in at 280 and Thom is 230.
Warren Mott (6-4, 2-3)
Strength: Experience and speed.
Top players: OL/DL Kris Campbell; WR/DB Andre Chandler; RB/WR/DB Jayvon Wilson; QB Mike Pond; WR/DB Jaalon Brown.
Outlook: Coach Tom Milanov said it’s the toughest schedule the team has faced in a while so staying healthy is crucial. Pond is an experienced quarterback and stands 5-9. Campbell should be the team’s top lineman as he tips the scales at 290. Wilson should be all over the place in the backfield and secondary.
► Related: Mick McCabe’s top 25 teams: Nos. 21-25
Sterling Heights Stevenson (7-3, 3-2)
Team strength: Offensive/defensive lines
Top players: OL/DL Dez Lance; FB/LB Brad O’Meara; S/RB Jerome Cooper; QB Niko Nickson; OL/DL Luke Gorniak.
Outlook: In Stevenson’s three losses last season they had fourth quarter leads in each game so Coach Kevin Frederick hopes to finish games better. They have a huge offensive line led by 270-pounders Lance and Gorniak and O’Meara should be a load at fullback at 225 pounds. Stevenson could be a threat come playoff time.
Coach’s poll: Grosse Pointe South 59; L’Anse Creuse North 55; New Baltimore Anchor Bay 47, Utica 41, Utica Ford 40; Fraser 30.
Utica (4-5, 2-3)
Team Strength: Experience and skill positions.
Top players: WR/DB Cam Mitchell; WR/DB Slater Lutz; QB Patrick O’Connor; RB/LB Nathan Ayers; OL/DL Colin Motloch.
Outlook: “We feel very good about the upcoming season,’’ said Coach Matthew Marulli. “The players had a great offseason and a great summer.’’ Motloch will be the imposing lineman at 265 pounds and O’Connor will be at the controls at quarterback. Lutz and Mitchell are the targets while Ayers will lead the running game.
New Baltimore Anchor Bay (3-6, 1-4)
Team strength: Skill players
Top players: QB/LB Jordan Irwin; RB/LB Matt McDonald; Jr. K/P Eric Hildebrand; WR/DB Cole Anderson; OL/DL Jesse Duvall.
Outlook: Mike Powell’s team looks to improve with speed on the outside and Irwin running the show at quarterback. There is some size up front with 270-pound junior Andrew Brissom and 260-pound Christian Morgan. The young players have to step up for the program to get to .500.
L’Anse Creuse North (4-5, 0-5)
Team strength: Quarterback, depth and linebackers.
Top players: MLB Brenden Jackson; SS/HB Matt Alanskas; OLB/HB Jaylin Allen; OLB/WR Joey Schulwitz; QB Blake Daniels.
Outlook: North was 4-0 against every team outside the MAC Red last year so the move down should help. Senior leadership is good and the program now has quality depth. Daniels is 6-5 so he shouldn’t have a problem finding Schulwitz downfield if the offensive line protects him. Jackson is a 230-pound punisher in the middle of the defense.
Fraser (3-6, 3-2)
Team strength: Speed
Top players: Jr. QB Ian Casey; OL Davis Herrera; DL Kelvon Roberts; WR Gelos Wright; Jr. RB Charles Brown; OL Kameron Martin.
Outlook: Fraser will be young, but has some talent. Six juniors are expected to contribute led by Casey at quarterback and Brown at running back. Herrera and Martin are the top offensive linemen while junior linebacker Austin West-Houck hopes to lead the defense.
Utica Ford (5-5, 3-2)
Team strength: Large junior class, new offense and defense.
Top players: LB/RB Zach McCrory; QB/DE Noah Heide; WR/FS Alex Iafrate; WR/SS Preston T. Smith; WR/HB/SS John Marden; HB/CB Elijah Graham.
Outlook: First-year coach Todd Koehn has a ton of coaching experience on his roster in Jason Byers, Tony Smith, Jay Anthes, Bret Davis and Mark Simms. He’s installing a new offense and defense and hired one of the top strength and conditioning coaches in the area in Shaughen Tahrebandhi. He led New Haven to a playoff back in 2007 and hopes to take Ford to another level.
Grosse Pointe South (7-4, 3-2)
Top players: OL Nathan Lawrence; TE Andrew Sharpe; FB Aidan Comes; QB Logan Mico; DT/OT Patrick Nauert.
Outlook: Don’t be surprise if Tim Brandon’s crew makes a playoff run. Five starters return on offense and three on defense but the depth is there. Sharpe has already committed to Miami of Ohio. Nauert has 13 offers, including some Ivy League schools. The offensive line returns three starters, so Mico should be well protected.
Coach’s poll: Warren Cousino 58; Grosse Pointe North 53; Port Huron 47; Sterling Heights 42; Roseville 39, L’Anse Creuse 31.
Warren Cousino (5-4, 4-1)
Team strength: Team Unity
Top players: RB Karry Debose; QB Ben Maleszyk; K/P Anthony Secchi; C/MLB Mike Rice; OT/DT Jordan and Jared Jones.
Outlook: Cousino tied for first in the Blue for its second straight title and now looks to make it three in a row and a deeper run in the playoffs. The Jones twins are both 240-pounds and Maleszyk will handle the offense, handing the ball off to Debose.
Sterling Heights (7-3, 4-1)
Team strength: Team mentality
Top players: WR/DB Oliver DeQuan; WR/DB Paul Ches; QB/FS Jacob Cadle; OL/FB/DL Sean Adour; WR/OLB Stephen Robinson.
Outlook: Sterling Heights broke through with a great season and made the playoffs under Brent Widdows. The team will be small this year, but “We have great kids and they are working hard for each other,’’ said Widdows. “It should really be a fun season.’’
Grosse Pointe North (5-4, 4-1)
Team strength: Experience
Top players: TE/DE Dillon Webb; TB Jared Jordan; C John Cwiklinski; CB Trent LaCroix; OL Garrett Clark; OT Ryan Doss.
Outlook: Coach Frank Sumbera has been coaching for 48 years and been a head coach for 35. This should be an even better season with the Norsemen returning 15 starters, eight on offense and seven on defense. The offensive line will average 240. Junior quarterback Bjorn Bjornsson’s favorite target will be Pete Caravino and Webb is entering his fourth year on the varsity.
Roseville (4-5, 2-3)
Team strength: Athleticism
Top players: DE Javion Boyd; RB/DB Joshua Butler; QB Dhamon Riley; RB/DB Derrick Lawrence; S Rickey Shackleford.
Outlook: Boyd weighs in at 280 pounds and will anchor the defensive line. Riley is a little quarterback at 5-9, but is elusive. Shackleford is a big safety at 6-2, 195.
Port Huron (3-6, 1-4)
Team strength: Senior leadership
Top players: QB DeAngielo Sanderson; C Jeff Segar; TE/DE Tyler Lee; DE Clay Carter; DB Ogric Anderson
Outlook: Moving up to the MAC Blue will be a challenge for Coach Ryan Mullins. Segar and Lee both tip the scales at 240 for Port Huron and Sanderson is back to lead the team at quarterback.
L’Anse Creuse (1-8, 1-4)
Team strength: Skill positions
Top players: WR/DB Lee Kennedy; Jr. WR/OLB DaShawn Mills; Jr. WR/TE Michael Alter; C/LB Nick McNamara; DL Cecil Trigg.
Outlook: Tyler Boyd has a young team that is hungry and willing to learn. Trigg will be the key on the defensive line at 240 pounds. There’s inexperience at wide receiver and defensive back, but Kennedy, Mills and Alter are all solid athletes.
Coach’s poll: Marysville 58; St. Clair 53; (tie) Marine City and Warren Woods Mott 47; Port Huron Northern 38; St. Clair Shores Lake Shore 30.
Port Huron Northern (4-5, 2-3)
Team strength: Veterans
Top players: OT Noah Steinhauer: QB Billy Fealko; LB Logan Culp; FS Michael Burrell, RB Travis Hughes.
Outlook: Seven return on defense and five on offense for Coach Larry Roelens. Fealko is a solid quarterback and will be handing off to running backs Hughes and junior Steven Mason.
Warren Woods Tower (1-8, 0-5)
Team strength: Youth, athleticism, excitement
Top players: FS Jajuan Lovejoy; RB/OLB Trey Barbour; RB/OLB Nico Martini; QB/DE Matt Bell; SS/HB Joey Schindler.
Outlook: Coach Al Gulick hopes a great offseason and some new assistant coaches bring more than one victory in 2016. Bell will hand off to Martini and Barbour in the backfield and on defense try to stop the opponent at 6-feet, 190 pounds.
St. Clair (3-6, 1-4)
Team strength: Team speed
Top players: DE/TE A.J. Aguilo; LB/FB Noah Gabriel; DB/WR Ian Janssen; LB/WR Sam Winston; WR/DB Ben Davidson.
Outlook: Experience in the backfield and in the secondary has Coach Bill Nesbitt II excited. “The key is how well we develop on the line of scrimmage,’’ he said. Five starters return on defense and four on offense. The numbers are down at St. Clair this year and the team must run the ball to set up the passing of junior Collin Agosta.
Marysville (7-3, 4-1)
Team strength: Offensive backfield
Top players: FB Dante’ Chreek; RB/DB Zane King; DT Austin Keeley, T Evan Foster; WR/DB Dylan Kiger.
Outlook: The Vikings have been solid under Coach Mark Caza and should be the same this year. Five to six potential starters in the backfield give the team depth. “We’ll try to play ball control and limit our opponent’s possessions,’’ said Caza.
Marine City (6-4, 4-1)
Team strength: Junior class
Top players: QB Kohle Sobol; RB Ryan Alexander: OL Andrew Steinmetz; LB Justin Headlee; DE M.J. Frank.
Outlook: The team was in a three-way tie for first place in the Gold, but Coach Ron Glodich considered it a down year. “It was our worst record in about 25 years,’’ he said. Marine City is looking for a better mix of running and passing this year behind Sobol.
St. Clair Shores Lake Shore (3-6, 1-5)
Team strength: Defense
Top players: OL/DL Tanner Konal, S/WR Brian Gnacke; Jr. RB/LB Decarlo Bowden; Jr. OL/DL Trevor Scott; Jr. LB Kyle Barbera.
Outlook: First-year coach Rich Popp is building a family at Lake Shore. Hopefully, his defense will be good early until the offense comes around. Konal is 260 pounds and Scott is 265 so the Shorians hope to run the ball. “The kids (defensively) have taken to the scheme and have been learning quickly,’’ he said.
Coach’s poll: St. Clair Shores South Lake 60; Madison Heights Madison 53; Warren Fitzgerald 49; St. Clair Shores Lakeview 42; Clawson 36; East Detroit 30.
Clawson (6-4, 4-1)
Team strength: Speed and experience
Top five players: RB/DB Justin Rudnicki; WR/DB Kourtney Manley; Jr. OL/LB Mitchell Payne; Soph. WR/DB Kamariell Manley; DB/QB Matt Stewart.
Outlook: Stewart tips the scales at just 154 pounds so the offensive line will have to protect him. Moving up to the Silver is a challenge Coach Jim Sparks is looking forward to. “We have a large number of returners with experience to lead a good crop of talented underclassmen,’’ said Sparks. Rudnicki had 503 yards rushing last season and Manley had 34 receptions for 506 yards and six TDs.
East Detroit (0-9, 0-5)
Team strength: Senior leadership
Top players: WR Stephen Herd; LB E’Dris Brown; RB Anthony Harris; QB Christian Robinson.
Outlook: Coach Ronald Bell expects to win some games this year thanks to getting an influx of players that participated in the Police Athletic League. Last season the team scored just 44 points while allowing 435. “Some of the worst in the state,’’ Bell said of those numbers. An experienced staff expects the program to become competitive.
St. Clair Shores Lakeview (2-7, 1-4)
Team strength: Offensive and defensive lines, running back.
Top players: RB/DB Jacen Norman; RB/OLB Chris Wise; RB/OLB Korey Majewski; OL/DT Austin Bausglaugh; OL/DT Will Vargas.
Outlook: Coach Pat Threet and his Lakeview squad will have its work cut out. The team will run the same system on both sides of the ball for the second year in a row with a stable or running backs expected to give the offense balance.
Madison Heights Madison (9-2, 5-0)
Team strength: Speed, athleticism
Top players: MLB Ryan Crews; OLB T.B. Brown; WR/DB Dre Williams; OL/DE Deron Hood; S/WR Brandon Cooper.
Outlook: First-year Coach and former Michigan star James Rogers has his work cut out replacing Drake Wilkins. Madison always has speed and can score in bunches. Rogers said discipline and fundamentals are the goals heading into camp. Hood is the big man across both lines at 240 pounds.
Warren Fitzgerald (6-4, 3-2)
Team strength: Skill positions
Top players: RB Najon Moore; WR Bryan Gordon; DE Mike Kizer; CB Dayvon Garner; T Jaylen Clark.
Outlook: It’s a safe bet to say that Moore will run behind Clark if he hopes to gain any yardage. He stands 6-6 and weighs 315 pounds. Coach Gary Skop has a solid core of seniors who will need to set the tempo every day for the youngsters if they want to make the playoffs again.
South Clair Shores South Lake (8-2, 4-1)
Team strength: Speed
Top players: RB/DB/WR Jerod Vines; QB Datrell Milling; RB Lance Mitchell; NG Jajon Dessasure; WR Terrell Cummings.
Outlook: Coach Vernard Snowden’s numbers are low but the talent level is extremely high. Vines is one of the most dangerous players in the state and Milling is elusive and quick at quarterback. Mitchell has the ability take it to the end zone on any play. South Lake will be fun to watch on offense.
Coach’s poll: Clintondale 48; Centerline 43, Warren Lincoln 39; New Haven 36; Madison Heights Lamphere 34.
New Haven (2-7, 2-3)
Team strength: Size and speed
Top players: Soph. QB Romeo Weems; RB William Moore; LB Tony Hamilton; Jr. WR/DBs Tyler and Trevor Dusty
Outlook: First-year coach Dominic Swope has one of the great basketball players in the state playing quarterback in Weems. At 6-6, Weems can see over the defense and has elusiveness. Please don’t get hurt for hoops. Thirty have come out for varsity and 62 make up the junior varsity and varsity so the numbers are getting better.
Madison Heights Lamphere (2-7, 2-3)
Team strength: Offensive line, defensive line, run game.
Top players: RB Tony Newman; Jr. OL/LB Zach Hilliard; OL/DL Dalton Templeton; QB Nick Gitary; TE/DE Ethan Springsteen.
Outlook: Experience will hopefully translate to victories for Lamphere. Newman, Hilliard and Templeton are all three-year starters and Springsteen has started for two along with Gitary.
Center Line (4-5, 3-2)
Team strength: Running game
Top players: RB/LB Steven Lucas; QB/FS Andrew Leutzinger; OT/DT Tyler Anderson; WR/CB Christon McNelly; WR/SS Zach Senyko
Outlook: Only 13 varsity players return from last season so it’ll be a learning experience for the young guys. Lucas will lead the running game behind offensive tackle Anderson (270).
Warren Lincoln (5-4, 4-1)
Team strength: Offensive line, defensive line
Top players: OL Xavier Aikens; FS Delvon Hawkins; RB Sean Russaw; TE/DE Tremaine Dent; DT Kalief Foster.
Outlook: The program is in great hands with Darrius Alexander at the helm. Foster tips the scales at 325 pounds and Aikens is 270 to Russaw should find some running lanes. Lincoln tied for the division title now the team wants to win it outright.
Clintondale (5-5, 2-3)
Team strength: Leadership
Top players: RB/LB Cleo Wade; RB/DB Glenn Carter; QB/FS Deonte Higgins; RB/DB Seth Maisano; RB/DB Omar Warlick.
Outlook: .500 is a bad year for Coach Dave Schindler so expect the team to rebound. Many of the returners were part of the playoff game a year ago, which has left the group hungry for me. “They’ve worked extremely hard this summer,’’ said Schindler.