The first official day of practice for the 2022 fall sports season was Monday. Here is Omaha Westside’s report, notes and observations from the Warriors first official practice.
The second level of the defense is clearly a strength. Choosing which eight to start in the Warriors 3-4 scheme will be a challenge for the Westside coaches.
The group at safety is about as good as it gets in Nebraska led by a fully healthy Caleb Benning. The junior is not only a skilled ball hawking strong safety — four interceptions in 10-of-12 games — he is an elite kick/punt returner and sure handed pass catcher in the slot when the Warriors have the ball. Benning was second on the team in tackles as a sophomore (68). Senior Ty Keifer doesn’t have the name recognition as the other defensive backs but he will be hard to keep off the field. Sophomore Keynan Cotton transferred from Papillion-La Vista after starting as a freshman and could see time at safety and corner. At corner, the Warriors should be overly comfortable with either senior Wes Okafor, senior Jeremiah Truitt and junior Isaac Richard.
Linebacker is stacked with good depth. Sophomore Christian Jones, an Omaha Burke transfer, will be one of the outside linebackers. The other will be junior Teddy Rezac who moves inside the box after tying for the team lead in interceptions (4) with Benning while playing corner last season. Senior Curt Cubrich was a mainstay at middle linebacker last season, look for him to improve on his 61 tackles and 10 tackles for loss. Junior Beau Ryan had 30 tackles including 10 TFL in 10 games last season. Look for Ryan to likely be a breakout candidate (meaning more of a household name in Class A) in 2022.
Junior running back Jahmez Ross took over lead back duties late in 2021 after somewhat of a breakout start to the season. In seven games last season, Ross rushed for 472 yards on 65 carries, good for a whopping 7.3 yards per carry. He should see plenty of work in 2022.
Junior Anthony Rezac took over as the starting quarterback in the middle of the season last year, unseating senior Kolby Brown. Rezac’s ability to use his legs to keep plays alive was a big reason why. Not only did he rush for 247 yards, he passed for 1,221 yards and 19 touchdowns. He is not a bad decision maker and has great accuracy as well. In nine games, he threw just one interception in 2021.
Senior kicker Tristan Alvano has a big leg and could actually play safety if they needed him to at 6-2, 185. Alvano made 11 of his 14 field goal attempts last season with a long of 49 yards.
The offensive and defensive line is a bit of a rebuild. The defensive front three is solid with returning starter RJ Eckhardt at one defensive tackle. Cam Bell started on both sides of the ball as a freshman at Omaha Burke last season and will be the nose tackle this season for the Warriors. Junior Jonquel Osler returns for his junior campaign. The question is depth behind those three and if Osler can step up into a much larger role after 13 tackles and three sacks in all 12 games played last season. This groups job will be to stay healthy and keep the talented linebackers and safeties clean.
The offensive line isn’t a full rebuild with junior AJ Jones returning after seeing some playing time last season. Senior Dawson Hardick is a versatile player that can play inside and out, senior Sam Nordquist is a two-year starter and Burke transfer Peyton McDonald is a senior that will likely fill one of the guard spots. Junior Broc Regner looks to be the starting left tackle. The unknown is the depth behind these five and can this group stay healthy and keep Bell on the defensive side of the ball exclusively.
Jaylen Lloyd transferred from Omaha Central after a record breaking track season as a junior. The wide receiver position is in good hands with Benning, Cotton and Lloyd. The unknown is how many shots downfield the Warriors will take and how effective Lloyd will be in the screen game. An athlete with his speed is a threat every time he touches it. Can the Warriors offense keep him engaged enough to make that speed a real threat is unknown at this point?
Paul Limongi takes over the reins after leading Omaha Burke to a state title in 2018. It looks as though the blend of cultures and staff’s is working well. How that works in a game will be the ultimate test.