Bellevue West fell one game short of winning the Class A state championship in 2018. The T-Birds were upset by Grand Island on their home field in the state semifinals.
This season their expectation is to win their second state championship in four years.
World-Herald prep recruiting specialist Mike Sautter attended Bellevue West football practice Monday. Here are his observations:
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Led by Nebraska commit Zavier Betts, the T-Birds might have one of the best receiving corps the state has seen. Opposite Betts on the outside will be emerging 2021 athlete Keagan Johnson, who will likely play safety and receiver until midseason when 2020 receiver and South Dakota State commit Nate Sullivan returns from injury.
Sophomore receivers Micah Riley and Kaden Helms look more like displaced tight ends with their length and size. They'll get every opportunity to make plays from the inside receiver positions.
Jay Ducker is one of the state's best running backs and will carry the load much like he did for the T-Birds in 2018. Ducker is more than a run threat as he's also a capable receiver out of the backfield. He scored 30 touchdowns on the ground in 2018 and is a goal-line threat from the T-Birds' wildcat formation.
There isn't a lot of depth on the lines, but the top offensive line unit is one of the best in the state. Senior Thomas Ault returns at left tackle and senior TJ Griffin will likely move from center to guard, paving the way for Kameron Kodat to be the starting center.
Senior quarterback Nate Glantz transferred from Millard West in the spring, but what he'll bring to the T-Birds remains to be seen. He does provide a threat in the quarterback run game and has had a full summer to learn the offense. Senior Evan Cleveland will push Glantz and can step in and be a threat in the passing game.
Getting enough stops on defense was an issue in 2018. The return of junior linebacker Ryan Rogers will certainly help. He can stop the run and is good in coverage from his outside linebacker position.
There is depth at cornerback. Senior Cruz Jurado is the top returner in the secondary and senior Trey Hepburn emerged at the end of 2018. Hepburn provides toughness and athleticism at the position. Senior Jerome Houston is a track athlete with length and speed. If those three can hold down the corner spots, the defense should take a step forward in 2019.