Best of the Midwest: Helmholdt’s takeaways

Best of the Midwest: Helmholdt's takeaways

WESTFIELD, Ind. – The Best of the Midwest Combine has been one of the premier winter events in the region for 11 years, and the 2021 version brought out a full field of participants who were anxious to prove their talent. The group featured several four-stars and several prospects who had already made their college commitments.

FOUR-STARS

Goodwin did not come to Indianapolis planning to participate. He was there to support several players he works out with at Aspirations Gym in Louisville, but the competitor in him took over and Goodwin took to the field for the one-on-one portion of the event. If you have not followed Goodwin’s story, he landed his first offers when he was still in middle school, but a year ago weighed more than 400 pounds.

Last spring, while most of the world was in quarantine, Goodwin lost more than 100 pounds, and has kept the weight off. The result is a tackle who plays with great range and still overpowers defenders. Goodwin got the better of the half dozen reps he took against high three-star defensive end Popeye Williams.

It is still early in his recruitment, but Alabama, Clemson, Kentucky, LSU and Ohio State are all top contenders.

*****

Saunders was the first prospect to get Sunday’s event buzzing. Already known as one of the fastest prospects in the 2022 class, Saunders lit up the stopwatches during his 40-yard dash testing. On his first run I hand-timed him in the 4.3 range. That would be validated when others had him at 4.31 on his second run.

Saunders carries himself with a confidence that backs up his high rating. He knows his speed is tough to contain for all defenders, but he does not rely on it solely. This past season Saunders showed strong development in his route-running, and that was again on display when he took reps in one-on-ones Saturday.

He committed to Penn State over the summer, but Florida State, Notre Dame and Oregon are trying to get him to rethink his decision.

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*****

When I covered Shepard in-person for a game this past fall, he played just one series on defense. His coaching staff chose to save the four-star for offense, but Sunday’s event gave us the reps at defensive tackle we have been wanting to see and it was reminiscent of the strong performance we saw from him over the summer at the Elite Underclassmen Camp.

What makes Shepard a standout at the defensive tackle position is his quick first step. He is so explosive out of his stance, often he is into or by offensive linemen before they can get into their set. We saw several offensive linemen just give up in reps against Shepard on Sunday during the one-on-one portion of the event because they were beaten so quickly.

Shepard committed to Cincinnati and was sporting Bearcats gear at the camp, but Alabama, Auburn, Ohio State and Missouri continue to recruit him.

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*****

Moore lived up to his four-star billing with Sunday’s performance. The only rep I saw him lose was the first one against Derrick Shepard, but he settled in after that and was very efficient in one-on-ones. Moore does flash out and take some reps at offensive tackle, but I like him best as an offensive guard.

You can see on film he is a mauler who loves to battle in the trenches and his size and skillset fit best on the interior. His battles against Shepard really brought out the best of both prospects. After seeing several reps between the two four-stars, I would call it a draw.

Indiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio State and Oregon are strong contenders in Moore’s recruitment.

*****

THREE-STARS

Williams is a smaller defensive end prospect, but he was noticeably bigger on Sunday than the last time I saw him in-person and said he is now in the 230-pound range. He is an outside, edge rusher – almost a hybrid – who is going to be called upon to get after the quarterback no matter what school he chooses.

In one-on-ones he tested himself against Rivals100 offensive tackle Kiyaunta Goodwin on nearly every rep. Those tall, athletic offensive tackles such as Goodwin are the ones that give Williams the most trouble, and he was outdueled in that battle.

Williams is being recruited by Alabama, Michigan State, Nebraska, Penn State and Wisconsin.

*****

This was my second time seeing Johnson in-person, and he definitely jumps off the field at you physically. He’s a tall, high-hipped back who can really run. Junior film showed us he runs with good pad level and is gone once he hits his seam.

Camps are not the best showcase for running backs, but what we did see of him on Sunday confirmed Johnson is one of the best backs in the state of Ohio’s 2022 class. Several new schools are showing interest in Johnson lately, but right now it feels like Iowa State is in the best position in his recruitment.

*****

We list Carroll as a cornerback, but with his size and skillset I could also see him moving to safety at the college level. He performed well in man coverage on Sunday, though, and did as good a job as anyone in coverage of four-star Kaden Saunders.

Carroll was not afraid to play press coverage on Saunders despite the receiver’s speed, and was able to stay with him throughout his routes. Carroll has an offer list that includes Boston College, Cincinnati and Indiana.

*****

Linebacker, like running back, is not best evaluated in a camp setting, but the Best of the Midwest Camp was one of the first I attended that ran competitions to isolate those characteristics most comparable to live football, like pass rush and open field “tackling” drills.

Moon is not the most athletic linebacker in this 2022 class, but he is a smart football player who rarely makes mistakes. Purdue landed Moon as its second commitment in the 2022 class, and he should be an asset in the locker room as much as he is on the field. He displays strong leadership characteristics and always carries himself with poise.

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*****

UNDERCLASSMEN AND OTHERS TO KNOW

Malik Elzy
Malik Elzy

*Arguably the top 2023 prospect in attendance was Chicago (Ill.) Simeon wide receiver Malik Elzy. I had seen Elzy a few weeks back at the EdgyTim/EFT Showcase, and knew what to expect. The sophomore already has good size for the position, he moves extremely well and understands route-running and how to set up defenders. Elzy landed an offer from Michigan a year ago, but more recently has been hearing from the likes of Notre Dame, Northwestern and Florida State.

*The quarterback position did not feature a lot of big-name players, but there were several promising arms in the group. In the 2022 class, two prospects who stood out to me were Radcliff (Ky.) North Hardin’s Manie Wimberly and Dublin (Ohio) Coffman’s Mason Maggs. Wimberly is built like a fullback, but he throws a beautiful football with lots of pop. Maggs’ motion is extremely clean and efficient. His size and arm talent should attract FBS attention.

*In the 2023 class I liked what I saw from Indianapolis quarterback Drew VanVleet, who is still growing into his 6-foot-5 frame, but already has big boy power in his arm. In the 2024 class Louisville (Ky.) St. Xavier’s Trevor Havill similarly has a tall, lean frame he will grow into, but threw the football with a lot of velocity.

*Other linemen who stood out during the one-on-one sessions were Tyler Leopold and Connor Kemmerling on offense, and DeJuan Echoles and Tywan January on defense. Kemmerling is a prospect who has impressed me at several events now, while Leopold was dominant playing offensive guard in one-on-ones. Echoles is undersized for defensive end, but was one of the best overall athletes I saw at the entire event, while January is a stout interior defensive lineman who overpowered his opponents.

Source: Rivals.com

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