One of the more fascinating things about returning to something years after being part of it in a different role allows you to gain some perspective. This past week, Lincoln Southwest and Millard North battled it out for the Class A title, but to a player from Nebraska who graduated in the early 90's, you can't help but be amazed with the recent power shifts in high school.
"I tell you one of the biggest things is that the Lincoln Public schools are beginning to feel what the Omaha Public schools have felt for a very long time," Coach Clinton Childs said. "Here in Omaha alone there is anywhere between eight and 10 Class A football schools and it has to be more than that."
"If you take North and Benson, those are two Class A schools where a lot of your talent is spread out. Then you have Northwest that isn't too far away from Benson and there are just too many schools in one area and not spread out so you can't build a powerhouse."
While it is tough to really become a consistent power because of the relative closeness of high schools and areas, Omaha North can stake a claim at having the top two juniors in the state next year. There is quarterback/athlete Phillip Bates and wide receiver/athlete Niles Paul.
"Well Phillip Bates is a younger cousin of mine. I am pretty sure that everyone knows that Niles Paul who is the nephew of Ahman Green. Both of them are already holding offers from Nebraska. I am a North graduate and Ahman went to North up to his sophomore year then he transferred to Central. A lot of people don't know that."
"With him being the age that he is and how young he is, I would like to say that he is a freak of nature almost. The way that the kid's body has developed already. His hand size is recorded down in Lincoln when they measured them, he is like 16 or 17 years old maybe, they said his hands were the second largest hands they ever recorded in Lincoln."
"He was actually our backup quarterback last year. He backed up a two year starter. This year he started every game this year as a quarterback. We went to a spread type offense and ran a lot of shotgun to give defenses a lot more to think about as far as whether we would pass, run to our running back or ball-keep and let him run the ball."
Nebraska isn't pigeon-holing Paul or Bates when it comes to setting their positions on their recruiting boards. As Paul told Big Red Report a couple of days ago, Nebraska likes him as a wide receiver first, but they have already talked to him about wanting to get him on the field early and that could be possibly as a safety. This isn't a new tactic and is growing in popularity. You either have the speed on your team or you are chasing it.
"It's kind of funny, I think that Nebraska is recruiting him (Bates) as a utility player. I think an "athlete". You are starting to see that more around the country where schools will just recruit a kid for his athleticism alone and no specific position. Not to compare the two at all, but look at Jammal Lord. Look what he was drafted as. I am not for sure if he ever played defense before, but I know that he didn't play defense in college."
"If I am not mistaken I want to say that Phillip is like 6-foot-2 and about 185 pounds, maybe 190. He looks lanky and long. I would give him 6-foot-1 at least. Phil's hands are probably larger than Dwayne Harris' who played at Nebraska. Phillip is actually rangy like that with long arms. Him and Niles Paul are both physically developed like young men, have great work ethic and hit the weights really hard over the summer. I think that they will have an impact at the next level wherever they decide to go play."
Niles Paul was the main receiving target for Bates this past year. Coach Childs has had a chance to see and play with some great players in Lincoln and is an excellent judge of talent. That is why when you hear his comments about Paul you really start to believe that they hype following Paul is true.
"Explosive. He's a legit 4.4 guy. He is a track star. He won one of the toughest races that you can win in track and field anyway. I want to say that he won the 300m hurdles. That is kind of rare to find a sophomore to win a race like that. It takes a lot of speed and a lot of strength and endurance. For any kid to do that as a sophomore is a pretty big feat."
"On the field what we basically like to do is set up match-ups. What we did was created those match-ups to give them chances to get the ball. What Niles does is he does a really good job of going up in the air and not waiting for the ball to come down. He made so many plays like that this year. That probably raised a lot of scouts eyebrows who were there to see how legit this kid was."
It is a huge advantage for Nebraska to have two players of Bates and Paul's caliber growing up in their own back yard. However, players have left the state for other opportunities like Ty Goode, Tim Ritter, and more recently Allen Evridge. Does Nebraska seem to have an advantage of them being true Husker fans?
"I want to say that Niles lived out of town, I think that it was Virginia before moving back here. Phillip lived here pretty much his whole life. He and I found out that we were related a few years ago, even before he got to high school, and it's kind of funny at family reunions and you hear people that you are related to and that is how it came to be."
"With Phillip Bates' dad and Niles Paul's uncle playing down in Lincoln, I am pretty sure that those boys follow what is going on down at Nebraska. I would guess that their childhood dream was to grow up, be an athlete and play college football. Their immediate thing is what do I want to do? Well, Nebraska has been successful for a very long time and to see that kind of success you would have to think it would be somewhat of an interest for them to go there and play."
While the idea may be to strap it on for the Big Red in Lincoln, the advice of a person that has been there and done that is to go through the process. It is getting increasingly difficult for players to commit early and not be influenced by something or someone done the line and sometimes decisions are solely those of the recruit. That is why Childs has stepped up and offered some wise council.
"Just from the conversations I have had with those two I have just told them to wait it out. They don't need to commit right now. Take your time. Make sure that you think it through. Make sure that you talk to your family. Make sure that they are the ones that make their own decision. When you let other people influence you to make a decision things usually don't turn out exactly the way that you want to. It's something that you have to live with and you could find yourself somewhere down the line trying to transfer to another school."
"They both have the rest of their junior year. They are both very good basketball players too. Niles of course runs track and it's just something that will take some time to think about. The offer is already there. I think that there will be a lot more offers to come out. They need to take their visits, look at campuses and have their families input."