The Omaha Locker Room was held last week at 12 metro-area high schools. The traditional jamboree was held on Saturday at Papillion-La Vista South.
Here are notes on players and teams you may or may not know from the week-worth of practices I attended.
The Monarchs undoubtedly have some skill players and two of the best all-around athletes in the metro. 2022 linebacker/edge players Kaden Johnson and Will Hubert don’t just look the part, the play the part. Defensively they both showed their next-level athleticism and strength.
Although Johnson and Hubert aren’t your stereotypical offensive linemen, the two are some of the strongest on the team. The team-first guys look like they will be the starting offensive guards.
Along with Johnson and Hubert on the line is senior Alec Blevins. Blevins’ frame is something college programs certainly can work with at 6-foot-6, 270-pounds. It doesn’t hurt that he has good feet and moves well in space for a player his size. Junior lineman Jace Wheeler has some mauler to him. He’s not the tallest or a fits-all-the-measurables guy, but he is strong and should be stout at center offensively and at nose tackle defensively.
2022 defensive back/slot/H-back Derrick Buggi had an impressive first day of camp. He has more than sure hands. It was almost like he didn’t drop anything, not even the tennis balls thrown his way in drills. He is another really good athlete the Monarchs have who can make defenders miss in the open field.
Tight end Luke Lindenmeyer had what can be considered a breakout season in 2020. The 6-4, 230-pound high academic player has soft hands and uses his big frame to make space. Another tight end or outside receiver that shined was Lane McMillian. The 6-3 senior had a great practice on Wednesday and is as sure-handed of a player as you will find.
The Junior Jays have been building for the 2021 season for two years, particularly on the offensive line. They “went young” two years ago in their fronts and it looks as though that decision has payed off.
There is a lot of depth on both lines led by 2023 lineman Sam Sledge. Sledge will move from guard to tackle in the fall. His strength, athleticism, knowledge and physicality jumps out quickly when observing him even in a practice setting.
2023 offensive tackle Rocco Marcelino is likely going to be the other offensive tackle in the fall. He did not participate in the camp due to baseball obligations. On inside run at Thursday’s practice and the Saturday jamboree, 2023 lineman Dale Green stood out. Green is powerful and was able to shed would-be blockers fairly regularly. He could have a big year in 2021.
Jack Piernicky will be the quarterback but don’t look for him to throw a ton. Prep has three really good running backs that they can rotate in. Junior CharMar Brown was a testing star at the Warren Academy Showcase in April. He has a perfect combination of speed and power. Junior John Pargo brings the speed element to the backfield as evident by his sub 11-second 100-yard dash time on the track. 2022 back Jack Stessman can get tough yards and emerged last season as a more-than-dependable back.
A summer breakout player for the Jr. Jays is Jack Kirkwood. The 6-4, 195-pound senior-to-be had a terrific week and at the Wednesday practice he jumped out at both linebacker and tight end. He didn’t attend the Saturday jamboree because he was at the Lindenwood Mega Camp. That decision payed off with an offer from Southeast Missouri State.
On Thursday, Omaha Burke and Omaha Westside were paired for a co-practice. A new face and plenty of others that felt like new faces for Burke was a delight to see. The Bulldogs were back on the field in pads against a different school for the first time since 2019 due to Omaha Public Schools cancelation of the 2020 season.
The newest face was Burke quarterback Cooper Katskee. The senior-to-be moved from Cherry Creek High School in Colorado and will immediately be the starter in 2021. A strong, smart quarterback with a good arm, Katskee should spend plenty of time with the Burke receivers this summer to get to know his new teammates.
I think by now we all know what Devon Jackson is capable of. However, it has been two years since he’s played in a game. The senior star linebacker will “be where the ball will be” on defense. Think of it more like a rover or combination free safety/linebacker/strong safety/pass rusher. Offensively, he should be able to take the top off of defenses with his speed and catch deep balls for touchdowns.
Look for 2022 utility back Donovan Moody to see the ball plenty on offense. He can line up at outside receiver, in the slot and even running back to make plays. Defensively Moody should be able to lock down one side of the field at corner.
2022 linebacker/tight end Alec Cook sure does look the part at 6-3, 230 pounds. He’s a bit of a throwback, neck roll included. A high-motor player, he should be stout in the run game from his middle linebacker position and even made a few plays as a tight end.
Another new name to keep an eye on is freshman-to-be Christian Jones. Jones started with the top unit at linebacker in the jamboree on Saturday.
The defending Class A champs replace some key positions from last season. At quarterback it will be Kolby Brown’s full-time job. Brown is smart, has been in the system and throws a nice deep ball. If you paid attention at all in 2020 you know what 2022 running back Dom Rezac can do. He did more of the individual drills and team run game with Burke and missed the jamboree due to the Lindenwood Mega Camp.
Brown has two nice receiving threats that made plays last week. 2022 receiver Grant Guyett catches everything. An emerging name outside of the program who had a good week at receiver is 2022 Avery Dondlinger. He caught a few deep balls for big plays. 2024 athlete Caleb Benning got some time at both inside receiver and defensive back. Benning has the pedigree and athleticism to be good. He will have every opportunity to get significant playing time at both positions in the fall.
The Eagles have depth and size on the lines. 2022 offensive lineman Deshawn Woods wasn’t in attendance on Friday and Saturday due to an official visit at Arizona State.
2022 lineman Larry Moreland was hard to miss on Friday in a co-practice with Ralston and the jamboree on Saturday. A strong interior lineman on offense and defensive tackle, Moreland doesn’t have a lot of length but he makes up for it in power. At 6-foot, 270 he keeps his weight low and is a run-stuffer with some pass rush ability. Offensively you just can’t do much, if his technique is right he is locking in on a would-be tackler and finishing. He also has the athleticism to get to the next level.
Quarterback is still a question but the Eagles do have some skill. They will try to get the ball in the hands of Jaylen Lloyd. An explosive athlete, Lloyd won the all-class gold medal with triple jump of 46 feet in May. 2023 middle linebacker Jamison Kemp is a load in the run game at 6-2, 260.
2022 running back Rashad Madden didn’t participate on Friday or Saturday due to a minor hamstring injury. That gave an opportunity to a handful of others.
2022 outside linebacker/tight end Caleb O’Brien stood out on both Friday and Saturday. A long (6-4, 200) standup tight end, O’Brien made play after play on both days. He has enough speed and size to catch deep balls and sure hands to move the chains in passing situations on third down. His teammate Zeke Wells (2022) is another threat in the passing game as a standup tight end or maybe even out of the backfield.
A first look at the Vikings since 2019 came Saturday in the jamboree. 2022 left guard Dupree Green had a strong day particularly as a run blocker against Creighton Prep and Omaha Burke. Green is powerful and will look to anchor the inside of the Vikings’ offensive line.
Freshman-to-be Tyson Terry started at defensive end and tight end on the first plays from scrimmage. He doesn’t look like a freshman. Terry is strong, has a good football IQ and wasn’t easy to move from his defensive end position.
Defensive back is a strength for North. Keshaun Williams moved from outside linebacker in 2019 to safety. Williams, a senior-to-be, is the most explosive athlete and what looked like the unquestioned leader of the defense. Tre Brown (2023) at corner is one of the better corners in the metro you’ve never heard of. He has good length and strength and isn’t afraid to mix it up in the run game.
North always seems to have running backs. One that had a great day on Saturday was 2024 back Ke’Vaughn Shannon. Shannon is in the mold of former Viking star Milton Sargbaugh. He isn’t the biggest or strongest but he has quick feet, can make you miss and break long runs.
Others: Omaha Northwest 2022 running back/linebacker Bronson Birdow had a nice day at the jamboree Saturday. He’s a bigger back and can finish runs. Defensively he should rack up tackles from his middle linebacker position.
2024 Omaha Benson wide receiver DJ Sterling made two electric plays where he cut back across the field from behind the line of scrimmage for long touchdown runs.