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Redshirt Report: Helm staking out claim as an underclassman to watch

April 29, 2021
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During the beginning weeks of the off-season, Inside the Gators will take an in-depth look at how last season went for Florida's 2020 signees and transfers. Normally, the focus is on those who redshirted, but since the NCAA mandated that the 2020 season was 'uncounted' as far as eligibility is concerned, essentially every player redshirted.

Today the Redshirt Report series focuses on the freshman season of cornerback Avery Helm.

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With great athleticism, a good frame and the desire to be the best, Avery Helm is looking to stake his claim as an elite-level defensive back at the University of Florida.

As a Missouri City, Texas, his area is no stranger to producing talent. NFL cornerback D.J. Hayden went to Elkins High School in Missouri City. William Jackson III and Xavien Howard were teammates just 20 miles away at Wheatley High School.

Helm received over 20 offers from Division I programs, but ultimately inked with Florida on Early Signing Day.

His trainer PJ Wilson said Helm missed part of his senior year due to injury. However, he came back toward the end of the season and for the playoffs. Once the Buffaloes’ season ended, the cornerback turned toward getting ready for college. In Wilson’s mind, that sort of eased his transition to Florida.

In regard to maturity, the transition was kind of seamless for him. Helm’s approach to life is simple in that he doesn’t need a lot to feel comfortable. As long as he’s got a place to fish, football to play, schoolwork to do, and a weight room Helm won’t have any problems.

To Wilson, Gainesville was a perfect landing spot for Helm seeing as it’s a relatively quiet town outside of football season.

“He would rather be in the country kind of just relaxing and doing country things,” Wilson said. “And then when it's time to play football, you played football. He doesn’t need the ‘rah rah’ and all the people around. He doesn't need the limelight or anything like that. He's never been that type of kid.”

Obviously, the biggest issue is being away from his parents, siblings, and immediate family, but that also gives someone like him a chance to go off and show he can manage on his own, that everything he was taught growing up is coming to fruition.

There was a bit of a gap physically, though, in terms of having his body prepared for Southeastern Conference-level competition. Florida’s staff throughout the entire process showed they can get Helm’s body ready without putting him in a bad situation or jeopardizing his rehab.

One obstacle to overcome was transitioning from high school, where the team lifted about four times a week, to a Florida workout program that features a lot more frequency and consistency than a high school’s.

According to Wilson, Helm put on about 12 pounds in weight. He suspects Helm weighs about 175 to 178 (the spring roster has him at 174). Although most of that is muscle seeing as he’s about three percent body fat, which Wilson jokes he has in his own pinky finger alone.

This doesn’t mean Helm isn’t built for SEC play altogether. He possesses an insane amount of athleticism, great height, and a big wingspan.

In fact, Helm registered a 40-yard dash time of 4.30 seconds along with a 40-inch vertical during testing at Florida’s recent simulated Pro-Day. 

“He had the second-fastest time. And the second (highest) vertical jump at his own pro day, pretty much,” Wilson said. “So, you’re like ‘Man, now all you got to do is put it all together on the field and it should translate right away.’”

Someone like Helm has confidence in himself and what he can do. Ability-wise it comes down to matching it with the actual defense, how he fits in with the defense and the scheme. Then when he takes it out against guys from Alabama, Auburn, LSU, and the like; he can measure himself up.

“Speed is always a win in the SEC,” he said. “And if nobody can really run past you (then) you’re already ready to play. You're in the play, now it’s about the scheme and the defense and how they are actually going to use him to better use his skill set. But running a 4.3 and everybody in the whole league knowing that they got a 4.3 corner out there, that changes some offensive coordinators’ game plans.”

Helm saw little to no playing time during his freshman year. His only appearance came in Florida’s Cotton Bowl loss to Oklahoma. But, according to Wilson, being on the bench allowed him to observe and absorb all he could. 

He got to see where players succeeded, where they failed, and witnessed the speed of the college game. That way, as he gets more confident with his body, he can just go out on the field and doesn’t have to ask about anything.

Wilson used a universal subject to explain what it was like: food.

“It just made him even more hungry,” he said. “As almost like you have your favorite plate or your favorite dish, and somebody sets it on your table. But it's only the kids (size). You’re like, ‘OK, I like it but I need more.’”

Thus, Helm came out and showed this spring why he deserved more.

First was posting that crazy 40 time and vertical to showcase his athleticism. Wilson said that was a statement day. It was telling everyone “I’m here, I have my year under my belt. Watch out for me this summer and watch out for me this fall.”

Additionally, from what Wilson understands, Helm had a great spring camp. He’d get film from Helm and Wilson claimed he might’ve not allowed a catch all spring and certainly didn’t give up any touchdowns.

“I think the transition for him was just the fact that, ‘Hey, I just need to see guys working hard, and I'm going to match that intensity and maybe even take it to the next level,’” Wilson said. “Because he's always challenging himself and does a good job of letting everybody know.”

Helm even told Wilson two weeks before testing day he’d have some of the best numbers.

He’s also no longer working with the defensive backs coach who got him to Florida. Torrian Gray ended up parting ways with Florida and Jules Montinar took his place.

Interestingly enough, Montinar offered Helm when he was part of the Texas State staff. So, the two already knew each other. Of course, players get disappointed when the coach who recruits them leaves but at least it was somebody he knew.

Now, he’ll likely compete for a spot at nickel. Wilson believes he’s at least the first nickel corner on the field. Then Helm will work his way up from there.

“With the attitude he has, and the focus that he has right now, I believe by fall that will change,” he said. “I believe that he will be probably the starting corner, and that other guy will end up being the starting star or the nickel that comes in and they go from there pretty much.”

There’s plenty of pressure playing cornerback in the SEC just from what’s on the field. You’re also competing against the depth chart. Of course, most Florida fans know about the defense’s struggles in 2020.

Helm is committed to making that secondary the best one in the conference. It’s personal for him. He wants to be a leader in that unit because he knows what he can bring to it.

“Any defensive back that you talk to on that team right now would tell you that ‘He is the one that wakes us up and gets us to our stuff, or makes sure that we at our meetings on time and make sure that everybody's on the same page,’” Wilson said. “So, it's not only what he does for himself on the field but it's how he talks to his teammates and how he's around his teammates.”

He didn’t come to play in the third or fourth-best secondary in the conference. Helm wants to be the best. He didn’t lose too much in high school and isn’t about to let that happen in college.

“He's taken upon himself to really insert himself, and make sure he's doing everything he can among everybody else to help them, and then that will help him be better as well,” Wilson said.

Redshirt Report: Helm staking out claim as an underclassman to watch

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