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Helmholdt's Takeaways: Elite Underclassmen Camp

CJ Hicks
CJ Hicks (

OBETZ, Ohio – Football is starting to make its way back in the state of Ohio, and on Saturday the Elite Underclassmen Camp was held in the suburbs outside of Columbus. The event brought prospects from as far away as St. Louis and Virginia, and also featured some outstanding performances from the home-state contingent.

MORE: Rivals100 lineman Rayshaun Benny weighing decision timeframe

CLASS OF 2021 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team | State

CLASS OF 2022: Top 100

MORE: Rivals Transfer Tracker | Rivals Camp Series



If I had to pick one most impressive performer from the entire event, that award would go to Hicks. Already on the cusp of five-star status after the first ratings were handed out for the 2022 class, the Ohio State commit was physically and athletically superior to almost every player at the event. We list him at safety and have compared him to Isaiah Simmons in the past, but Hicks was bigger than five-star linebacker Shawn Murphy and looks headed for that position as well in college.


Having a twin brother who is also a top college football prospect to push you has to be an advantage when you are forced to quarantine. It looks to have paid off for both King brothers, who were among the most physically impressive and fundamentally solid of the prospects who participated Saturday. Kalen is a good-sized cornerback who came in Saturday in great shape and was among the class of the defensive back group.


The weight room was certainly part of the King brothers’ quarantine workout as evidenced by Kobe’s bulked-up frame. Of course, the first concern when a prospect puts on significant muscle mass is stiffness, but Kobe looked as fluid as I have seen him going through position drills on Saturday. He is best-suited for the inside linebacker position in college, but what has always impressed me is that Kobe also plays comfortably in space.

This was my first time seeing Tshabola live since he earned his spot in the Cincinnati Rivals Camp out of the Rivals Combine more than a year ago. In that time, you can see Tshabola’s confidence has grown. He was always a big-framed lineman, but he is starting to build himself physically into a more formidable athlete. Tshabola said Ohio State offensive line coach Greg Studwara likes him at left tackle, but he also looked to have a future at guard based on what we saw Saturday.

Overall, the running back group featured several 200-plus pounders, but the Northwestern commit was still the most physically imposing of that group. Listed at 208 pounds, there is no bad weight on his frame and Tyus moves really well for that size. I did put the stopwatch on Tyus as he ran through the 40-yard dash and his times were right in line with the smaller backs running at that time.



Tyson Ford
Tyson Ford (

The defensive line position featured several young prospects who have already started to accumulate offers, including Ford. It was easy to see on Saturday what has so many college programs intrigued, as Ford has a great frame and proved to be a natural athlete.

With 20 scholarship offers to his credit, Payne may already be past the “rising star” moniker, but as a rising junior we will include him here. It did not seem like Payne was too impressed with his 40-yard dash time, but I had him at 4.1 in the pro-agility shuttle, which is a much more applicable measurement for running backs. Payne definitely passes the eyeball test too, and has a great running back build.

When I last saw Pride, he had the tough task of guarding 2022 five-star wide receiver Luther Burden in his team’s early-season match-up with Cardinal Ritter High last September. On Saturday, Pride proved to be among the best in a deep group of defensive backs at the Underclassmen Camp. He brings the total package to the position, from size and fluidity to instincts and explosiveness.

I did not get to see as much of the defensive line group as I wanted, but Shepard was a prospect everyone I spoke with agreed was among the standouts. A big defensive tackle at over 300 pounds, what has attracted early offers from Florida State, Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska is his quickness and agility, and that was on display Saturday.

There were several young quarterbacks with offers I was interested in seeing on Saturday, and from that group I came away the most impressed with Wimsatt. It is easy see why the rising junior already holds double-digit offers, and he was the top overall quarterback I saw. Wimsatt has great size, clean throwing mechanics and spins a beautiful football.


Burks saw some time as a freshman on varsity for a deep Cardinal Ritter program last fall. His size and frame for a young safety prospect is already impressive, and his skill set shows promise that Burks could be among the next big-time safeties coming out of St. Louis, following in the footsteps of prospects like Antonio Johnson and Jalani Williams.

When you talk defensive ends at Pickerington North High School, five-star Jack Sawyer usually is the one that generates the most discussion. On Saturday, though, it was his running mate Hawk that was attracting the attention. Hawk does hold a handful of Group of Five offers, but his size and the skill set he showed on Saturday could make him a late riser on the Power Five scene.

If you have read my work in the past, then Jackson may not be a new name, but he is to the majority of the college football world. A couple early offers have come through for Jackson, but he could be poised for a big junior season. He has to overcome the height questions and stay tall in the pocket, but few look as natural throwing a football as the Chicagoland quarterback.

It was a big weekend for Grand Rapids’ Christian High School. Four-star class of 2021 basketball prospect Kobe Bufkin announced his commitment to Michigan on Friday, then rising junior linebacker CJ Jones had a standout showing in a loaded group that included Jamari Buddin, CJ Hicks and Shawn Murphy. The size and athleticism is there for Jones, and I expect the scholarship offers are not far behind.

The offensive line position featured several big-time prospects and standout underclassmen, but Kemmerling was a surprise standout. From a frame standpoint, Kemmerling certainly looks the part of a future FBS offensive tackle. The tall, athletic lineman still needs to be coached up on the finer points of the position, but also has some impressive uncoachable traits.


... Rivals250 linebacker Jamari Buddin was one of several class of 2021 prospects who worked out on Saturday. He has scheduled his commitment for Friday, July 17. That selection is down to four finalists: Michigan State, Minnesota, Penn State and Purdue. Buddin said he already has a pretty good idea in his mind which school it will be, and plans to announce that via social media this Friday.

... Five-star class of 2022 linebacker Shawn Murphy made the trip out to the Columbus area Saturday to get some work, and was sporting Ohio State gloves to the joy of the hometown crowd. The Buckeyes are considered a strong, early contender in Murphy’s recruitment and he seemed to already be close friends with CJ Hicks, another class of 2022 prospect who is already committed to Ohio State. The pair had a healthy competition throughout the event and were joking around often.

... The testing portion of Saturday’s event was done at the beginning of each group session. I hand-timed only about 8-10 players in the 40-yard dash, but the fastest of the group I timed was also the biggest: Grand Rapids (Mich.) Catholic Central 2022 athlete Nolan Zeigler. Already with nine scholarship offers that include Boston College, Iowa and Nebraska, Zeigler worked out at safety, but could play anything from wide receiver to linebacker at the next level.

... Although he did not work out, Ohio State five-star defensive end commit Jack Sawyer was on-hand, watching from the sidelines. A torn ACL ended Sawyer’s junior season, but he showed no lingering signs of the injury on Saturday and did not have the knee braced up. Physically it looks like Sawyer has been hitting the weight room hard because he was clearly more bulked up than when I last saw him in the fall.