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April 21, 2013

Rivals Camp St. Louis: The buzz

MORE: Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour

Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

O'FALLON, Ill. -- The St. Louis stop of the Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour hosted players from 20 states -- including Alaska -- at O'Fallon Township High School just inside the border of Illinois.

Among 233 players competing, there were at least two who admitted they were paying attention to the rankings as well as their recruiting.

Rivals250 tight end Daniel Helm of Chatham (Ill.) Glenwood and four-star offensive guard D.J. Foster from Lincoln (Neb.) Southeast said their rankings were important to them and that checking for changes in their rankings occupied some of their time.

"(I look) more than I should," Helm joked. "That is all I'm going to say."

Helm said he knew he was the No. 201 player in the country, as well as the No. 6 tight end. He added that he wasn't checking the rankings as a motivational tool but a measuring stick.

"I wouldn't say that the rankings matter to me so much as I really just want to be ranked high enough to go to one of the all-American games," Helm said. "So if I'm No. 200 and that gets me in or if I am No. 100, I don't care."

Rivals.com regional analyst Josh Helmholdt said he sees Helm as a player on the rise who could play his way into one of the prestigious games.

"I think he has the ability to play at an elite level," Helmholdt said. "He is a receiving tight end and won the MVP of the Rivals Underclassman Challenge last year, so we will see what happens."

Helmholdt said that, along with his physical makeup, the 6-foot-5, 220-pound player has a personality that draws others to him.

"First of all, he is a super-nice kid who is shy in the way that even he is impressed that we think he is a four-star player," Helmholdt said. "He is respectful and humble.

"As far as being a prospect, I think he has a lot of upside. Right now he has coat-hangar shoulders, and I could see him easily getting up to 240 or 250 pounds."

Helm said his recruiting could come to an end soon with a decision among Tennessee, Ole Miss, Michigan and Florida before summer.

The lure of the SEC may be pulling on Foster as well.

Recent offers from Florida and Georgia have sparked interest for the 6-foot-3, 327-pound player.

Foster was born and raised in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and said that adding an offer from Alabama could change things.

"I am definitely interested in Alabama as a program," he said. "I would have to look into them a little more, just like I need to look into all the other schools."

He said the climate differences between Nebraska and Alabama are more noticeable than anything else he has experienced in recruiting.

"Going from warm all the time to sometimes having to be inside with a blanket on your lap is a good difference," Foster said.

"Otherwise, I think it is about the same for me. If I lived in Alabama I'd have the same kinds of friends and get the same attention as I do in Nebraska."

Despite living in Nebraska since he was 7, and having a brother at the school, Foster said leaving the state for football wouldn't be hard on him.

That might be easier said than done, according to Helmholdt.

"I wouldn't sleep on Nebraska," he said. "Every time I talk to him, he is very high on Nebraska. With his brother there, and with them offering him before he was a junior, it means a lot to him. Now that he has SEC offers it could start to pull on him, but it won't be as easy as he makes it sound."

With offers and options, Foster said that his trip to the Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour was to help boost his ranking.

Admitting that he checked at least once a month, Foster hopes to have showed enough in the one-on-one portion of the camp to move up from his current No. 10 position among offensive guards.

"The kind of competitor I am, I always want to be closer to the top than the bottom," he said. "That is what I will be going for."

Nelson netting national attention

Unranked tight end Matt Nelson of Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Xavier entered the St. Louis event of the Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour as a player on the rise.

In the last three weeks, the 6-foot-8 player has gone from local offers of Iowa and Iowa State to coast-to-coast commodity. Arkansas, Harvard, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Stanford and Yale have joined in the recruitment.

Along with his athletic ability, carrying a 4.2 grade point average and wanting to go premed have made Nelson an attractive option for many programs.

It has overwhelmed him.

"It is exciting," he said. "It is just all going so fast. Just in the last three weeks."

Helmholdt said the pace is picking up but it is not surprising.

"Iowa kids are always recruited slower than Florida-, Texas-, California-type places," he said. "There isn't as much talent, so schools won't come here as often.

"When you go into Tampa or down to Dade County (Fla.) you can see 100 kids all in one trip, or you can spend the same amount of money going all around Iowa and see five players; it just doesn't make financial sense."

What has helped Nelson is his flexibility to play wherever he is asked. He has offers as a tight end from some schools, while others, including Notre Dame, are offering him as a defensive lineman.

The lack of a true position was another reason Helmholdt believes recruiting was slower to develop for Nelson.

"Not only is he in Iowa, but he also has question marks and that just continues to slow things down," Helmholdt said. "If he is 6-foot-8, where does he play? A lot of times kids that size will move down to offensive tackle, but he doesn't look like he has that frame. Will he have the speed to play defensive end? I don't know. It just all compounds to slow programs from offering."

Nelson is taking it in stride and starting to look into where he wants to play -- as well as where he wants to get his degree.

"I want to further my education," he said.

If he can pass the tests on the football field as he does in the classroom, he will have his choice of schools.

Lazard alone in getting invitation

For the second day in a row, the Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour produced a single player who performed at a level to receive an automatic invitation to the Rivals 100 Five-Star Challenge.

Urbandale (Iowa) High receiver Allen Lazard checked into the event at 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds and went on to impress the Rivals.com analysts -- including Helmholdt.

"He came in looking great," Helmholdt said. "People don't expect the No. 1 receiver in the country to be from Iowa, but he has all of the tools.

"He is 6-foot-4 and thick, but he doesn't have that tight end body. He high-points the ball really well, and that is an asset as a red zone, jump-ball guy. More than that, he can catch a screen, make a move, and burn you down the sideline."

Lazard has been a longtime commitment to Iowa State. He said, while he will take several official visits, that barring the program going on probation he will likely end up in Ames.

It would mark two classes in three years in which the top receiver in the country came from a nontraditional football power and stayed home.

Helmholdt said Lazard also has a similar game to class of 2012 top target Dorial Green-Beckham, who is at Missouri.

"I think that DGB is a great comparison for Lazard," Helmholdt said. "They do a lot of the same things, and they are both tremendous."



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