On Monday World-Herald prep recruiting specialist Mike Sautter attended Bellevue West football practice. Here are some observations.
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Bellevue West is a perennial power in Class A after compiling a 33-3 record the past three seasons. A repeat performance of last season's 9-2 record and state playoff berth is now the minimum expectation for the T-birds.
Bellevue West is loaded with playmakers. The receiving corps is led by 6-foot-2, 195-pound junior Zavier Betts. Nebraska has offered Betts a scholarship, along with Iowa, Iowa State, Minnesota, Purdue, and South Dakota State. He is joined by two-year starter Evan Kieser and senior Shane Smith. Rounding out the starters is 6-2 junior Nate Sullivan. The group displayed their pass catching ability and speed on Monday afternoon.
Running back Jevyon Ducker enters his junior season after rushing for 1,707 yards and 26 touchdowns last season. A new wrinkle could be Ducker catching more passes out of the backfield or lining up as a slot receiver in 2018. Ducker holds Division I scholarship offers from Purdue, South Dakota State and South Dakota. Backing up Ducker is senior running back Justin Chaney, who is likely to see carries when Ducker is split out or needs a breather.
The offensive line is anchored by three returning starters: 6-foot-5, 260 pound junior Thomas Ault, Kaden Lind (6-2, 260 pounds) and TJ Griffin (6-0, 260 pounds). If those three remain healthy for the entire season, Bellevue West should be able to match its record-breaking offensive numbers from the previous three seasons.
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It is easy to point to the T-birds' defense as a unknown. After all, they did give up a record-breaking 73 points in a loss to Omaha Westside last season.
The 2018 defense is fast in the secondary and has size up front. Junior defensive tackles David Shannon and Tyler Chaney are space eaters in the middle at 270 and 360 pounds. Senior defensive end Jalen Powell received an offer from Division II Southwest Minnesota State last week and has both speed and strength at 6-2, 220 pounds.
Sophomore defensive back Keegan Johnson should see significant playing time in the secondary. He is the son of former Husker Clester Johnson and younger brother of former Bellevue West standout receivers CJ and Cade Johnson.