Butch Jones landed one of his top recruiting targets Tuesday afternoon at any position when Chatham (Ill.) four-star tight end Daniel Helm elected to end his recruitment and commit to the Tennessee Volunteers.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound pass-catching tight end had more than 15 offers and chose the Vols over Michigan, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska, N.C. State, Missouri, Northwestern, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin and others. He is known for his strong hands and athleticism and is a candidate to make an immediate impact in the passing game. With a pledge from four-star Ohio target Ethan Wolf, the Vols are probably done at the position in the 2014 recruiting class and currently have 10 commitments overall in the 2014 class. They've moved to fourth in the Rivals rankings and are currently fifth in the 247 rankings.
Helm is rated as a 247 Composite four-star prospect and the seventh-ranked tight end in the nation. 247Sports rates him as a three-star prospect and No. 18 tight end in the nation. They rate him lower than the other two major services who have him placed. Scout believes he's a four-star prospect and the fourth-ranked player at his position in the country. Rivals has the four-star prospect as the sixth-ranked tight end in the nation and the No. 201 overall player in the country. Many services believe the Glenwood (Ill.) High School product could line up as a Y-receiver as well. He's athletic enough to move around in space and has the frame to put on some weight and still be dynamic in the passing game.
There were message board rumors swirling around Helm's visit to Knoxville for the Orange and White Game this past weekend that he really enjoyed himself and was feeling the Vols on his second visit to the school in a month. Some even suggested a commitment may be imminent. The courtship escalated somewhat on Tuesday when Michigan -- believed to be in his top group and perhaps even his leader -- accepted a commitment from four-star tight end Ian Bunting. With the Wolverines taking just one tight end in this class, their recruitment of Helm was effectively over.
Helm told reporters Tuesday night that while the Bunting decision did play a role in his commitment, he had the Vols and Ole Miss as his top schools. The Rebels and coach Hugh Freeze probably were about to ramp up the heat -- and may still ramp it up -- on Helm after losing four-star receiver Jeb Blazevich to the Georgia Bulldogs earlier Tuesday. Blazevich was a Rebels legacy and chose the Dawgs over Ole Miss and Clemson, among others. But Helm was more interested in UT and will be one of the top players in the Vols' recruiting class by the time next year's National Signing Day rolls around.
Here is a page with some of his HUDL highlights and it shows his athleticism and pass-catching ability. There are multiple videos at this link. He finished last season with 44 catches for 821 yards and 17 touchdowns for a strong team against strong competition. He recently won top offensive performer at his position at a St. Louis skills camp and was lauded for his explosiveness.
His projectable frame also appears able to hold 240-250 pounds, and he is exactly the type of tight end Jones needs to execute his offense -- athletic, able to go across the middle, strong enough to catch balls in traffic and with a frame to pack on weight. Personally, I am VERY high on Helm and believe he's one of the top five tight ends in the nation, along with Blazevich, Tyler Luatua, Marvin Saunders and Milan Richard.
With the commitment of Ethan Wolf a couple weeks ago and Helm today, the Vols have a pair of four-star tight ends who will be major needs in the future. Brendan Downs and Woody Quinn will be rising seniors by the time these guys get on campus, and with his chronic hamstring issues, there is no optimism right now that Justin Meredith will ever be able to contribute at UT. That leaves only A.J. Branisel -- an incoming freshman in this class -- as a projectable true tight end on the roster after 2015. Justin King will play some tight end but he's more of a flex-type H-back. Again, Wolf and Helm are more along the lines of the caliber tight end Jones wants at Tennessee.
This is the 10th commitment in the 2014 class for the Vols, who will only continue to improve on their consensus top-five recruiting ranking in the nation. Helm's top recruiter was UT assistant and tight ends coach Mark Elder, who also was the lead recruiter on Wolf. He's brought himself a nice pair of tight ends for the future.