The fall sports season began August 9, with the first official practices for fall sports teams.
If 6-1 can be a disappointing season that’s what it was for Bellevue West. The 2020 T-Birds fell short of their lofty expectations, losing to Kearney 41-40 at home in the state quarterfinals. The expectation for this season and virtually every season for what seems like the last decade is a state championship.
Here are notes and observations from the T-Birds practice on Friday.
Led by the two senior hybrid tight ends, Oklahoma commit Kaden Helms and Auburn commit Micah Riley, the wide receiver or pass catcher position in the T-Birds four receiver offense is clearly the most known. Both caught over 20 balls in the seven games, are big bodies as red zone targets, can stretch the field and are going to help on special teams a little as well. On the outside it’s sophomore Dae’vonn Hall (6-1, 180). Hall is a power conference prospect in his own right with offers from Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas State. Joining Hall on the outside will be junior TK Barnett (5-10, 165) . Barnett, a Bellevue East transfer, looks as though he could make a name for himself in the T-Bird offense this season. Junior Kyrell Jordan (5-8, 160) is another name to watch in the receiving corps.
The middle of the defense from front to back is the strength. On Friday, the defense dominated the offense. The safety position is returning starter Preston Ames (6-1, 185) and junior Gio Contreras (6-1, 180) is transitioning from running back to safety. Jayden Roberts (5-9, 200) has started for three years at outside linebacker. Roberts is the teams leading returning tackler (51) on Friday he was flying to the ball making play after play. His move to middle linebacker should only help him make plays at or behind the line of scrimmage.
The two starters at defensive tackle are playmakers as well. Senior Arden Jenkins (6-0, 255) and Air Force commit Caden Camese (6-3, 280) will be the two starters at defensive tackle. Camese particularly can take on double teams and open things up for Roberts to make plays at linebacker. Corner is also a strength with senior Will Kieser (6-1, 175) and Jaylin Avant (5-11, 165).
The offensive line is not just one of the biggest lines in the state but the position group is probably one of the best in the state with a lot of experience. Air Force commit Henry Rickels (6-4, 280) is the headliner at right guard. Senior Tye Stuck (6-2, 259) will join Rickels on the right side at tackle. Junior David Waller (6-1, 297) is the starting center. Millard West senior transfer Nate Raymond (6-5, 303) has won the job at left guard and junior Kellen Stueben (6-2, 265) will be the starting left tackle.
Clearly the question throughout the offseason has been who is going to be the primary quarterback. The potential is obviously there with Daniel Kaelin. The 6-2, 190-pound sophomore received offers from Florida State, Nebraska and Kansas in the offseason. On Friday the quarterback that got the first opportunity with the top offense was senior Luke Johannsen. Johannsen and Kaelin clearly will share time early in the season at a minimum, something Bellevue West has done in the past. The philosophy is to go with the hot hand if one of the two hasn’t separated from the other.
LJ Richardson (6-2, 208) is about as known as it gets at running back. Richardson rushed for 1,239 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. The position group as a whole is the unknown. Who will be the backup running back is a question and there is a clear drop-off behind Richardson. Junior Jayshaun Smith (5-10, 183) is a name to keep an eye on behind Richardson.
Outside linebacker is a bit of a question. There are three players for the two open positions with the move of Roberts to the inside. The competition isn’t settled with senior Mauro Smith, juniors Nate Hudec and Caleb Jacobmeier as the leading candidates to win the jobs.