Zavier Betts has come a long way in the past two years.
Oh, the talent’s always been there. That’s never been in doubt for the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Bellevue West wide receiver and Nebraska verbal commitment.
In other areas, though, progress was much needed.
Take, for instance, the first time Betts met Husker coach Scott Frost, shortly after Frost took over the NU program in December 2017.
Frost had learned from Thunderbirds head coach Michael Huffman that Betts might move to the slot because Huffman was tired of his outside run game being hampered by poor blocking on the perimeter.
Frost, in an attempt to probe what made Betts tick, asked what the junior-to-be thought of that.
“Zavier’s response, to the head football coach at Nebraska, was, ‘I don’t really like to block,’” Huffman recalled to the Journal Star on Thursday.
Frost was back at Bellevue West on Thursday as he made the rounds to several area schools during NU’s bye week. This time around, Betts aced the test.
The consensus four-star prospect, considered the No. 52 player and No. 7 wide receiver in the country by Rivals and the No. 106 player overall by the 247Sports Composite, is making needed strides in the classroom and in the refinement of his game, two topics of conversation with his future head coach on Thursday afternoon.
“School’s actually going a lot better this year than it has in the past,” Betts said. “That’s great for me because it helps me kind of get ready for what it’s going to be like in college and stuff.”
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And yes, the blocking has improved, too.
“Last year, I took a lot of downs off when it came to blocking either backside or play side, and there would be times where Jay (Ducker) would get tackled or any of the slot guys would get tackled because I didn’t get my guy," Betts said. "That’s been my biggest thing this year, and I feel like I’ve improved in that a ton.”
That’s music to Huffman’s ears.
“Boy, he has made that his mission,” said Huffman, whose 10-0 and top-ranked team hosts No. 4 Omaha Burke in the Class A quarterfinals Friday night. “I told Frost today, two weeks ago against Omaha North, he had four pancakes. … I’m so proud of him because it’s hard to get him the ball. People play so far off of him, they cheat people toward him. … He’s been very, very mature this year.”
Blocking, of course, isn't all Betts does on the field. In 10 games for a loaded Thunderbirds offense, he has 933 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns, is averaging 19.9 yards per catch and has has six multi-touchdown games. He’s gone over 100 yards three times — including a 200-yard effort that included touchdowns of 98 and 73 — and has nine touchdowns of 32-plus yards, per MaxPreps.
From a football perspective, Betts checks just about every box Nebraska could want.
He’s from right here in the program’s backyard and is a rarity as a nationally coveted in-state skill position player. He plays a major position of need, not only as a wide receiver but as a physically imposing one at that.
“Their receiver position is actually pretty weak and, just knowing that I could get in there and potentially play a huge role to help the program, that’s exciting,” Betts said. “Their run game is pretty good, their screen game is really good and they’re using Wan’Dale (Robinson) to the best of his abilities, so if I could get in there and help take some of the pressure off of him — he’s been working his butt off the past couple of games trying to help keep Nebraska in some games — getting there to help him, help the team and help the program grow will be, honestly, amazing.”
“(Frost) mentioned it today multiple times. Multiple times,” Huffman said of Betts’ fit and the future of NU’s offense. “I was so impressed when he left here today. … He has it down. He has it all planned out.”
Betts also has the metrics to back up the eye-popping film. At The Opening, a national football camp this summer, Betts posted a 4.59-second electronically timed 40-yard dash to go with a 38.6-inch vertical and tested in the 99th percentile of campers in other measured drills.
“The kid is a freak athlete,” Huffman said, noting that when Betts put up those numbers at the camp, he hadn’t even been fully training because he took classes all summer instead of working out as much in an attempt to continue making up ground academically. “As good as we want him to be here at Bellevue West, we’re helping get him ready for Lincoln. We see that. Yes, we want to be as good as we possibly can be, but this kid, if we can get his academics in order — and we’re progressing in the right direction — he’s got a shot to play on Sundays, and I haven’t had the luxury of playing many kids that can.
“He is just barely at the tip of what he is going to become, and it’s going to be exciting to see as long as he can put it together.”
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