The first official practice day of practice for the 2021 fall sports season was Monday.
Here are notes and observations from Omaha Westside’s practice on Thursday.
Running back is clearly a strength. Led by senior back Dom Rezac the running back position is clearly a strength. The Air Force commit led Class A with 18 touchdowns and 1,310 yards on the ground last season. He will likely get as many touches as he can handle in 2021. Sophomore Jahmez Ross could be the lead back at almost any other school and will see plenty of carries himself. Ross is likely a breakout candidate that could be a household name by the end of the season.
The outside skill positions may not have the splash or highly recruited players from a season ago but there is plenty left for 2021. Senior receivers Grant Guyett and Jack Wimmer are more than capable of making big plays. Guyett is as sure handed as they come and could be a go-to guy in third and medium situations.
There are really good athletes in the middle of the defense, more specifically the linebacker and safety positions. Senior’s Tommy Connelly (6-0, 185) and Tyler Spady are sure tacklers and have a clear understanding of the defense. Connelly might not be the biggest player but he won’t back down or be pushed around. Junior Ty Keifer will be a name to watch at safety.
It’s not fair to compare the 2021 starting quarterback Kolby Brown to the 2020 quarterback Cole Payton. Payton was special, quarterbacks like him don’t come around very often but Brown is good enough to carry Westside to plenty of wins in 2021. They are different athletes, have different playing styles and Brown isn’t the runner that Payton is. What they do share is complete control of the offense. Brown, a senior, played at times in key situations last season and gained significant experience. He’s waited his turn, has his own leadership style and is a pretty accurate quarterback. Can he establish himself as the go-to guy in key situations like Payton is the unknown.
The offensive and defensive line is a bit of a rebuild but not as much as some other schools. The depth is there led by Jack James and Ryan Zatechka. Both were key pieces on last season’s state championship team. Jones has started games each of the last three seasons on the offensive line and Zatechka the same on the defensive line. Both will likely be asked to play both ways early on as the younger inexperienced players get acclimated to the speed at the varsity level. Another player with varsity experience is senior Cole Haberman. He is versatile enough to play virtually anywhere across both lines. Sophomore defensive tackle AJ Jones is a name to keep an eye on as his football career progresses.
The sophomore class is extremely talented. They went undefeated last season on the freshman level and a few moved up to varsity after the freshman season ended. How much and how quickly can this young group help as sophomores will be key to the 2021 success. Caleb Benning might just be the best of the sophomore’s. He was having a strong summer before missing the later part of June and all of July due to an injury. His expected return at slot receiver and defensive back in week two will be a welcome addition.