I still remember watching Florida State offer Bellevue West QB Daniel Kaelin as a freshman back when he hadn’t started a varsity game yet. His recruitment was strange from then on, where he seemingly wanted to be a Husker, but was in the unfortunate situation where the #1 QB in the entire country was a legacy Nebraska recruit that was showing interest. Things seemed to just not be in the cards for him to end up in Lincoln, and he committed to Mizzou.
Things then took a turn when Dylan Raiola eventually stated his intentions to go to Georgia and Rhule/Satterfield pivoted to all-in on Kaelin. Kaelin was selected first team all-state as a junior where he threw for 3,361 yards and 39 total touchdowns. Kaelin was invited to the Elite 11 camp where he ended up being a finalist. Today we debate just what we are getting with him, and the pros/cons.
Does he make the players better around him?
One of the first things I look at is if a QB is truly a Power 5 kid, does his team win and does he make the players around him better? I still remember watching Jared Bubak at Lincoln Christian and just kind of head-tilting that he was considered a Division 1 player. While he was projected at a different position than QB, the thought process is still the same for me. Lincoln Christian wasn’t dominant with a 200+ pound D1 player getting snaps.
A guy like Zane Flores at Gretna is a perfect example of what i’m talking about. While the Gretna Dragons aren’t short on talent, you could see how Flores elevated the play of the skill players around him, often times throwing his WRs open and making them better than what I believe they actually are. As a Power 5 quarterback, you should be the catalyst to your supporting cast and lift them up.
So with Kaelin that’s a bit of a mystery. Bellevue West has Dae’Vonn Hall and Isaiah McMorris at the WR spot who have a large number of high-caliber offers such as USC, Tennessee, Penn State, and more. So he has guys that are going to be pretty wide-open all the time, he doesn’t have to be accurate or think quick, the reads are there instantly.
And Bellevue West doesn’t stop there. Micah Riley-Ducker committed to Auburn a couple years ago as a TE, Kaden Helms committed to the Sooners a couple years ago. Clester Johnson’s kids all went there and were big time players. Their RB ended up at Wyoming in 2022. So for me, it’s hard to tell if Kaelin elevates those players or if those players help elevate him? At the end of the day it’s not a bad thing he has good players around him, it’s just tougher to get a read on what someone actually is like you can do with Flores who is currently battling for the #1 spot down in Stillwater. Knowing Flores had lesser talent around him and still won a state championship (don’t care it got removed) makes it “safer” in my opinion, but isn’t the end all be all.
Speaking of it not being a bad thing having good players around you
Much like when Dylan Raiola was visiting here and players would come visit just because of his name… Kaelin is going to instantly help us with a pipeline to the highschool in Nebraska that has sent the most players to Power5 schools in recent years. Even if Kaelin doesn’t work out, it makes almost too much sense to get this in.
On a weekly basis Satterfield is going to be able to speak with Coach Huffman at Bellevue West about where Kaelin is and how he is progressing. In return, he will be able to hear about the players that may be getting recruited from other Power 5 programs just by coming with “so what else is going on?”
The way things are trending now, McMorris and Hall are going to be ending up in Lincoln, throw in Betts being in Lincoln already, and that’s 4 players on scholarship from one school. Heck of a pipeline. And they already have more underclassmen starting to get looks from schools like Iowa, etc.
Elite 11/7 on 7 Success
When it comes to Elite 11 or even 7 on 7 situations, it’s hard for me to put a ton of stock into success there. The story I always give is when Omaha Central won the Nebraska State Championship in 7 on 7, then promptly had 3 wins that fall and failed to make the playoffs when actual football was played. No pads, no linemen, things just are way different in these situations.
When you are going to get hit, there’s a pass rush, people coming at your feet, things can change. It is very difficult to tell how someone is going to perform in an actual football setting. With that said, Kaelin has some unbelievable stats for actual football, which is obviously a plus and extremely hard to ignore.
Further giving me PTSD, Nebraska has had 3 quarterbacks make the Elite 11 (Kaelin being the 4th). Harrison Beck in 2004 who made the finals like Kaelin, Johnny Stanton in 2012 who made the finals as well, and Patrick O’Brien who was in the Elite11 but did not make the finals. Not exactly a great track record for us and this being that big of a deal for our recruits. Again, knowing the translation to on the field is tough. It’s not like Stanton, Beck, or O’Brien didn’t have lofty stats on Friday nights either just like Kaelin does.
But at the end of the day being invited and making the finals of the Elite 11 isn’t a bad thing. And Kaelin shined in the accuracy portion of the competition. I also think that if they grade off the field things and interviews that he would score off the charts there. Here’s hoping that going and proving himself there gave him an added chip on his shoulder and enhanced his skills even further.
While it was good to go compete with the best in Elite 11, one of the things that’s interesting when it comes to Nebraska high school football is just how out of balance teams are. Bellevue West gets at least 3 games every regular season where they play teams that are completely atrocious like Omaha South, Bellevue East, and Omaha Burke. That can really skew the stats and help your case to pad maxpreps.
Bellevue West went 7-4 last year with 5 Power 5 players on its team. While that doesn’t concern me all that much, it is interesting. And Kaelin and the Thunderbirds beat pretty good teams like Creighton Prep and Omaha North, but struggled against teams with equal talent such as Omaha Westside, Kearney, and Gretna. Again, not extremely concerning, but something to think about on my end. With that many Power 5 players on your team (the most in the state of Nebraska) how did we have four losses?
At the end of the day, Kaelin had such great skills as a freshman in high school that one of the blue blood programs in college football offered him, Florida State. He has only grown from there. This senior season he is going to really go off. They will start with Omaha Burke and he will throw for 900 yards and be in a good spot to not press.
With Hall and McMorris, it is going to be an Air Raid of all Air Raids. And Kaelin has the luxury of getting to Lincoln where we will have a returning QB and he won’t be called upon year 1. He can learn the system and develop into what Satterfield expects from his signal callers.
And this article wasn’t meant to downgrade Kaelin, it was to point out things that can be issues or be great moving forward. Recruiting elite QBs is a losing battle anyway, as this article states from 2017-2020, out of the top 50 QBs in each of those classes, 22 players moved positions, 10 players medically retired, leaving us with 168. 126 of those 168 guys transferred schools for an alarming 75% transfer rate. QB is the one spot where if you aren’t going to start, you leave if you are a premier talent, because no one gets drafted as a backup despite many fans saying “ya but the #2 player has been playing the last few years due to injury!” You don’t stay as a #2 and cross your fingers the guy in front of you gets hurt.
I am still shocked that we went all in on Raiola, missed, and were able to get an in-state QB recruit to commit to us that was invited to the Elite 11 camp. No matter what happens with Kaelin in Lincoln, we got a damn good one.
Tomorrow we will go over the recent run of commits and my thoughts on them. Should we be concerned? Then on Monday we will open our Etsy store and do our two part video breakdown series. Please send the link to anyone you think would appreciate it.
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