The football season will look a little different in 2020, but there will be plenty of great talent on the field. Here are some of the players to watch who will be competing at Nebraska colleges.
Izaiah Celestine, Doane, WR, Sr.
Celestine was honored as the MVP of the team in 2019 and led the Tigers in receptions and receiving yards. His versatility is evident in that he was also an All-GPAC performer as a return specialist, averaging 16.0 yards per punt return with one touchdown.
T.J. Davis, Nebraska-Kearney, QB, So.
The future is bright for UNK at the quarterback spot. And the future is now. Davis was electric last season at the helm of the ground-game Loper offense, garnering attention in the MIAA as the Freshman of the Year. He was a 1,000-yard rusher, second on the team in yards, and ran it in for a TD 16 times to go with nine touchdown passes and helped UNK its first winning record and post-season appearance since joining the MIAA.
Kaden Dawe, Nebraska Wesleyan, LB, Sr.
Dawe will be one of a group of seniors for the Prairie Wolves to be key to defensive success in 2020. He was second on the team with 101 tackles last year, recording double figures in tackles in six games, including five straight to close out the schedule. He was also second for NWU in tackles-for-loss (5.0), and had two sacks, two picks and a fumble recovery.
Austin Harris, Midland, TE, Jr.
As a sophomore, Harris was in the top five in the GPAC in scoring (72 points), which is quite a feat with the offensive prowess displayed week in and week out in the league. He was fourth in the conference in yards per catch, as he regularly helped the Warriors move down the field to the tune of 18.9 yards with each reception.
Andy McCance, Wayne State, QB, So.
After spending a season redshirting in Division I, McCance gave another Nebraskas D-II school (along with UNK) a chance to think the QB spot could be in good hands for four years. In his freshman campaign, he missed three games to injury, but with six starts led the Wildcats well. And with a new head coach in John McMenamin, whose teams put up off-the-charts offensive numbers at Central Missouri in between stints at WSC, the best for McCance could be yet to come.
Lane Napier, Concordia, LB, Sr.
Earning All-American honorable mention last season, Napier led the Bulldogs with 108 tackles. And when he got into the opponents’ backfields, their offenses suffered as he recorded 10.5 tackles-for-loss for an amazing 113.5 yards lost. He also had 4.5 sacks to go with a fumble recovery and an interception.
Travis Reed, Peru State, LB, Sr.
Reed led the Wildcats in tackles (86) and pulled in three interceptions on the year. He also had 7.5 tackles-for-loss, including a sack, in a season in which he earned All-Heart honors. With some of the defensive leaders for the Wildcats moving on via graduation, PSC will be looking to Reed for big play in 2020.
Wan’Dale Robinson, Nebraska, WR, So.
Late season injuries likely kept Robinson from bigger numbers in his first year in Lincoln, but he still earned Second Team Freshman All-American recognition by The Athletic. Even with the limited play, he had the most receptions (40) and receiving yards (443) for a true freshman in program history.
Cole Thurness, Chadron State, WR, Sr.
Having a great passing quarterback like Dalton Holst to get you the ball can go a long way and Thurness has made the most of it for last two years. The receiver has been named the team’s MVP twice (2018, 2019) and there may be nothing he can’t do. His career at CSC started in the secondary and he also sees time on special teams. Thurness can catch, run, tackle – whatever it takes.
Steel Willis, Hastings, DL, Sr.
In just nine games in 2019, Willis led the Broncos in tackles-for-loss (8.5) and picked up 4.0 sacks on the year. A threat to get into the opponents’ backfield at any time, Willis also had a fumble recovery and was fourth on the team in tackles.