Written by Ryan Wright
There are very few high school quarterbacks who can take the field knowing, not thinking, but knowing that with the power in his arm he can sling the ball anywhere he wants to in a game and with accuracy like Hunter Helms. The Class of 2020 Gray Collegiate Academy gunslinger has one of the best cannons in the nation but is more than just a strong-armed quarterback taking down South Carolina defenses, he is a student of the game.
Improvement over the years, not only in the stat column but also with technique and mechanics, is a key attribute to high school quarterbacks making that transition to the collegiate game. Helms has showed it all after throwing for 2,252 yards with 18 touchdowns as a sophomore and cranking it up in 2018 hitting 230 of 335 passes for 2,966 yards with 24 touchdowns tossed against just six interceptions. He also added a little dual-threat to his game with 243 rush yards compiled.
His 6-2, 205-pound, frame, coupled with a 4.3 weighted cumulative GPA and production against 2A competition has brought college scouts to the War Eagles’ yard. So far, seven offers have been extended from Bryant, Campbell, Charleston Southern, Elon, Holy Cross, Leigh, and Troy with more schools looking in on the All-State performer.
In an RNG exclusive interview partnered with QB Hit List, I sat down with the Columbia area product getting inside the helmet of one of South Carolina’s top quarterback talents.
Hunter, in case you have never heard this before let me tell you that you have one heck of an arm. (he laughs) At what point did you develop the arm strength you displayed last year where you could throw it on a line 40- 45-yards downfield?
“To tell you the truth, I am not really sure. By the grace of God, it came naturally. By my freshman and sophomore year I realized I could throw. I won the job and had a good breakout sophomore year. I came along then and have been doing me ever since.”
Within the Spread offense ran by the War Eagles, what are some of your favorite routes to hit?
“I like hitting down seam in Cover 3, that is easy. I like hitting the smash route, corners, and hitches. We have a broad spectrum of routes on the field. I like the post and throwing it deep.”
You have the arm but you also have touch with your passes, especially with your deep ball. What are some of the other areas of your skillset that really started to shine during the 2018 season?
“My coaches, and everyone I talk to, will tell me all the good quarterbacks in high school have a good arm. I believe it is the mental aspect that separates quarterbacks. My mental approach to the game started showing last season. The mental aspect made me a better player last year.”
Another aspect to your game that I really like is your poise in the pocket. You keep plays alive with your feet and it is obvious you know where all of your receivers will be on the field at any time scrambling to hit them on the run if that is what is needed. Do you practice off-platform throws or do busted play drills to prepare for that scenario in a game?
“Not really. It is just my first reaction. During practice what we work on outside the pocket is roll out and spin out drills. Other than that, the plays I make in games outside of the pocket are first reaction plays. Luckily, so far it has been the right reaction.”
Is there an area of your game that might not automatically show up on game reel or in the stat sheet that you feel gets overlooked?
“Yeah. I’m not sure if it overlooked, but my leadership. Since I was a freshman, I have had that leadership aspect. When I was a freshman, I would talk to the seniors in a leadership role. I guess I was made like that. Some freshmen may be afraid to talk to the older players, but I wasn’t.”
Which areas of your technique have you been working on this offseason?
“This offseason we have been doing a little bit of everything. I wanted to get deeper into the mental part of the game to make the right audibles for my team. I have been in the weight room getting stronger and faster. With my throwing, I have been working on my overall technique.”
How did spring ball go with the War Eagles?
“Oh man. It went really well. This has been the best spring I have ever had in my high school career. Some of the days we were in mid-season form. The new guys picked up everything fast. Everything is coming together nicely. We are doing summer conditioning and 7v7 now. We are not pushing anyone to be a part of the workouts, everyone is wanting to come in to do what they have to do for us to have a great season.”
How do you develop chemistry with your teammates, especially the underclassmen coming up through the ranks?
“With my main guys, we take them out to eat. I take my offensive linemen out on one day and then the skill guys on another night. We try to get at least one night with everyone. We hang out with each other; we are really tight on this team. The underclassmen we bring them in and invite them to hang out to build that chemistry.”
Have you competed at any camps this spring or summer?
“Yes. This offseason I have been to a few. I have been to Liberty, JMU (James Madison) and I plan on going to an Appalachian State camp. I went to 19 camps last season in like 16 days; I am not going to do that this season. The people that want to talk to me will reach out.”
Tell me about how the Liberty camp performance went.
“It went really well. Coach (Hugh) Freeze (head coach), I talked to him a lot and Coach (Kent) Austin (OC). When I was throwing, they were looking. We are staying in touch. I feel like wherever I go, my throwing abilities separates me from other quarterbacks. I am placing the ball where it needs to be, like on the outside shoulder on comebacks. I am placing it and doing what the coaches what you to do.”
Which schools are showing interest now but have not offered yet?
“I am receiving interest from Western Kentucky and Liberty.”
How many offers do you have?
“I have seven offers.”
Which schools have you visited this offseason?
“This spring my dad and I went on a country tour. We went and saw a lot of schools. I really liked and enjoyed Yale, Liberty, Holy Cross, West Virginia was really nice, Miami, Western Kentucky, and East Carolina.”
Do you have any planned unofficial and/or official visits set?
“I am planning on taking officials to Elon and Holy Cross.”
Last question. What is one thing you feel separates you from other quarterbacks in the 2020 class?
“My dedication to the game, my eagerness to get better, and my leadership. Every time I go on the field, I take that aspect that no one can beat me. Myself and my team, we have put that into our game this offseason.”
Hunter, it has been great covering your skills on the field and recruiting process. I appreciate your time today and wish you success with your upcoming visits.
Photo credit: Hunter Helms