The entire Top 15 along with players to watch and a look at three quarterbacks stepping into starting roles vacated by the area's top 2014 quarterbacks will be published Thursday in The Baltimore Sun and on baltimoresun.com.
Players to Watch: DT Ellison Jordan, Sr.; RB Antonio Dupree, Sr.; RB-LB Dorian Maddox, Sr.; WR-DB Korey Stevens, Sr.; WR-LB John Fitzgerald, Sr; QB Kasim Hill, Jr., OL Devery Hamilton, Sr.; OL Stephen Spanellis, Sr.; DT Taron Vincent, Soph.; OL Wes Mehl, Sr.; OL Stewart Keehner, Sr.; LB Antonio DiCerbo, Soph.
Outlook: Graduating 15 seniors from the team that shared the MIAA A Conference title last fall with McDonogh barely put a dent in the Greyhounds' talent level. A handful of players including All-Metro running back Jelani Roberts, second-team All-Metro quarterback Kai Locksley and safety Robert Branch left big shoes to fill, but plenty of players are ready to step in.
The Greyhounds had six players commit to Division I programs by early August -- the most in one summer during Poggi's career.
The biggest strength for this Gilman team, aiming for its first outright A Conference title since 2012 and its 13th title since 1998, is the offensive line. Four seniors -- all committed to Division I programs -- return.
All-Metro second-team tackle Hamilton, 6-feet-7, 290 pounds, is headed to Michigan; All-Metro first-team tackle Spanellis, 6-5, 320, to Virginia; center Keehner, 6-4, 280, to Georgetown; and guard Mehl, 6-3, 280, to Navy. Junior guard Ja'mion Franklin, 6-3, 295 completes the line.
"When I first started coaching," Poggi said, "the first job I had in college was for an old Penn State long-time assistant to Joe Paterno and he said, 'The only position that really lets you control the clock is the offensive line because you can dictate running the football and if you can run the football, you can control the clock,' And so the offensive line is really, really, really, really important and we've got a lot of really good kids there who've worked really hard and they're very cohesive -- and they're big."
Hill will take over at quarterback. Hill, 6-2, 205 pounds, knows something about the pressure of the position. As a freshman, he came off the bench when Locksley lost a shoe with less than five minutes to go against nationally-ranked Good Counsel and threw the game-winning touchdown on the first pass of his high school career.
Although Hill drew rave reviews for his arm at the Michigan State Elite Camp this summer, the Greyhounds offense is, as Poggi said, built on the run. They rushed for 2,543 yards last season and passed for 863.
With a couple of seasoned backs in Dupree (655 yards rushing, nine touchdowns last year) and Maddox (475 yards, four touchdowns), the Greyhounds should be off to a good start in their ground game. They also have junior Rob Levine and sophomore Brandon Madison, who will see time in the backfield.
Hill will have veteran targets for his arm in Fitzgerald, who is 6-4, as well as Stevens, who is committed to Villanova, and juniors Zach Jones and 6-2 Ayende Watson.
Defensively, the Greyhounds have two of the state's top defensive tackles in two-time All-Metro selection Jordan, 6-1, 275, who is committed to Penn State and Vincent, 6-2, 295, who already has offers from such programs as Alabama, Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin.
Senior Shamar Shanks, 6-1, 225, and junior Arik Smith, 6-1, 230 take over at defensive end.
Linebackers Maddox, Fitzgerald and DiCerbo combined for 184 tackles last season. Fitzgerald had three interceptions and two forced fumbles while Maddox had two interceptions.
Last weekend, the Greyhounds opened their season at West Virginia University in Morgantown with a rematch against St. Edward, Ohio, ranked No. 19 in USA Today's Super 25 preseason poll. Although they fell 14-13, it was a much better result than last season when they dropped the game 38-7.
Gilman started the season ranked No. 3 in the Northeast in USA Today's regional rankings, but they tumbled to No. 10 after the loss to St. Edward.
Before they begin their MIAA schedule, the Greyhounds have a chance to build on the St. Edward performance when they play Friday at Good Counsel, next week at home against Eastern Christian and Sept 19th at USA Today No. 13 Paramus Catholic, N.J which beat the Greyhounds, 35-0 last season.
After an 0-2 start last season, Gilman won eight straight before falling to McDonogh, 21-14, in overtime of the season finale. The loss made both teams 5-1 in the A Conference, so they shared the title. This year is the 100th Gilman-McDonogh game, scheduled for Nov. 7 at McDonogh.
The Greyhounds won't be able to play on their home field for most of this season while artificial turf is installed. Poggi said they tried to find a local college that could host all of their home games, but one was too expensive, another had too little parking and a third couldn't accommodate all four home games, so they will play three home games on the field inside their track. Only the Oct. 16 game vs. Archbishop Spalding will be played at Towson University's Johnny Unitas Stadium.
"I always envisioned us playing in that oval," Poggi said, "because it's right against the backdrop of our old original gym and if you look at that original gym, the big double doors that are there, there's a football on top of that. We're going to bring stands in and we're going to try to get some lights and play some night games there. And it looks like we might play a few games on our new field."