The 2021 class currently has two stars at the top: Omaha Westside speedster Avante Dickerson and Elkhorn South lineman Teddy Prochazka.
Both already hold plenty of major scholarship offers. Dickerson, primarily being recruited as a defensive back, has power-conference offers from Nebraska, LSU, Ohio State, Minnesota, Iowa, Iowa State and Rutgers. Prochazka's list includes Nebraska, Michigan, Arizona State, Iowa State, Northwestern, Minnesota, Kansas and Kansas State.
Dickerson has the attention of national recruiting services. He's a top-100 prospect in the rankings of 247Sports (No. 50) and ESPN (No. 36). Rivals also lists him as a four-star prospect and the No. 14 cornerback in the nation. With two more years of high school and one more summer camp season, his rating could improve further before he graduates high school.
Prochazka also has some lofty recruit rankings from the national analysts. Rivals has him as the No. 43 overall prospect nationally, and he's a three-star according to 247Sports and ESPN. Prochazka is the prototypical offensive tackle — long, lean and athletic — and college coaches are looking to mold that 6-foot-9, 285-pound frame.
The state of Nebraska is known for producing high-level offensive linemen, but there seems to have been a dropoff in recent years.
The 2021 class could change that. You have one already in Prochazka, but two or even three more could likely end up playing Division I football.
It seems like only a matter of time before Elkhorn South center Isaac Zatechka gets an offer from Nebraska or another nearby school from a power conference.
Cade Haberman, a 6-foot-2 lineman from Omaha Westside, is another to watch, and if he was a few inches taller, he'd be a no-brainer to receiver a power-conference offer.
Omaha Roncalli's Nolan Gorczyca and Omaha North's Hunter Push are two others who have generated some attention during the offseason.
Bellevue West junior Keagan Johnson moves from No. 10 overall to No. 3.
Johnson will be a key piece to the success of Bellevue West this season on both sides of the ball. He gained valuable experience last season starting at cornerback, and he'll move to safety this year while also playing receiver. His body has matured and so have his ball skills.
South Dakota State has offered Johnson. Iowa State, Wyoming and Northwestern might not be far behind.
Newcomers to the rankings
Omaha Creighton Prep tight end AJ Rollins could be another star. Nebraska was the first to offer him, followed by Iowa State. More offers could come if his production matches his potential this season.
Drew Christo and Zatechka made their way into the top 10 after not being rated in previous installments. That is a correction I needed to make after watching them in person over the summer at different camps.
There is a formula that I use, and a big factor is scholarship offers. College coaches make their living evaluating players. Yes, some coaches evaluate better than others, but nonetheless, to ignore the level of college offers and the number of them would simply be wrong-headed.
I do take into account the fact that some really good players simply don't have a position at the next level. For instance, a fullback body is not at a premium at the highest college levels at the moment. That can hurt an athlete's offer list.
I have spent hours watching game film, I keep notes from observing practices, games and camps. I also get feedback from coaches who are typically very honest about their own players and players on teams they face. Coaches know it does no good to hype a player. No one wants to get a kid in over his head in college.
Realize that college football is no picnic, and the highest level can be brutal. It's always been my belief that some parents who want their sons ranked high so they can perhaps have a better chance at playing, say, in the Big Ten, for instance, might think twice after standing on the sideline for a game. But I digress.
Suffice it to say that more than 150 players in this senior class were considered for this iteration of the rankings.
The process of naming No. 1 starts with a look at the players returning from the previous year's All-Nebraska team as named by The World-Herald — a strong and time-honored process engineered annually by colleague Stu Pospisil — and those who are getting recruited by schools at the higher levels. From there, I review film, parse statistics and review all-state team nominations provided by coaches from every class. As part of my daily life, I also have routine conversations with high school and college coaches and confer with other sports writers.
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