Clemson backup quarterback Hunter Helms making most of his opportunities (Photo by USAToday Sports)
With guys like Trevor Lawrence and DJ Uiagalelei on the roster, it would certainly be understandable for a freshman walk-on quarterback to come into the Clemson program and be a little intimidated by it all.
Not Hunter Helms though. The Tigers were forced to turn to the freshman walk-on from Columbia Saturday against Georgia Tech and Helms was, to say the very least, quite impressive.
With Uiagalelei out with a sore shoulder and Taisun Phommachanh suffering a broken bone in his hand against the Yellow Jackets, Helms got on the field far earlier than he otherwise would have and the offense did not miss a beat with him taking the snaps.
“Kind of wasn’t expecting it,” Helms said. “But you know, just always trying to stay ready as much as I can and just prepare like the starter. That’s kind of my mindset. I’ll take it every day, but just blessed to be able to go out there and do my best.”
The freshman quarterback made his Clemson debut a few weeks back against The Citadel and completed both of his pass attempts in very limited action. Against Georgia Tech, he was asked to play a larger role and when his number was called, he was ready.
Helms was 5-7 for 75 yards and became the first walk-on quarterback to throw for two touchdown passes in a game. Offensive coordinator Tony Elliott says it is Helms’ dedication to improving himself on the field, despite having limited reps in practice, that has really stood out early on in his career.
“Hunter Helms is a guy that works extremely hard and man kudos to him,” Elliott said “Because he’s a guy that’s in every meeting, doesn’t get many reps because he has to go down and rep on the on the scout team for our defense to help give them a look.”
Elliott says once Helms was inserted into the game, the focus was on doing the things the young signal caller does well. Overall, the Tigers offensive coordinator was impressed with how the youngster came in and ran the offense and was happy that all the work Helms has put in was starting to pay off with opportunities on the field.
“For him to be able to come in and pretty much run the offense, and obviously I like to ask those guys what they like, what they don’t like,” Elliott said. “Give him like a call sheet, you know he’s marking off things I’m like okay, okay, okay, okay. Man, he’s put in the work and then to see him go out and you know I think he’s the first first-walk on to throw two touchdowns in a game. But really, really pleased and happy for him.”
Elliott says he can see the freshman gaining more confidence with each passing week, and while Helms absolutely understands what his role on the team is, Elliott says you would not know it by watching the young quarterback prepare.
“But really, really pleased and happy for him and I think he’s just gonna continue to get better,” Elliott said. “His confidence is going to continue to grow but I think he’s just a a steady young man that comes in every single day, very humble, very quiet, understands his position. But man he’s working like he’s preparing to be the starter and I think that’s what allows him to go out and have success in a situation like the other day.”