LINCOLN — Nebraska fans found out Monday that four-star Bellevue West tight end Kaden Helms was no longer considering the Huskers among his future schools.
NU coach Scott Frost knew several weeks ago. Helms, one of the top 2022 prospects in the state, called Frost and told him that he was cutting the Huskers from his long list of suitors. Not because of Frost, or Nebraska’s offense, or its relative lack of success over the last four years, or even its deep tight end room.
Helms’ decision, he said Monday night, was solely rooted in wanting to get out of the state.
“I’m kind of burned out on Nebraska, to be honest,” Helms said. “I lived here a long time, and it’s about wanting to get out and see something different in the world.”
It continues a trend of local elite athletes — Keagan Johnson, Avante Dickerson, Chucky Hepburn and Hunter Sallis among them — who have turned down local opportunities to play major college sports elsewhere. Omaha Burke linebacker Devon Jackson and Omaha Central offensive lineman Deshawn Woods both left Nebraska out of their top groups, as well. Now Helms, who spent the weekend at Arizona State taking in the Sun Devils’ spring game, is looking to play outside the state’s borders.
Helms said he struggled with the decision to leave Nebraska off now or basically do so later when he started scheduling official visits. Ultimately, he did it now.
Frost, Helms said, took it well.
“He congratulated me and told me if there’s anything he can do, to let him know,” Helms said. Tight ends coach Sean Beckton wrote Helms a letter conveying the same sentiment.
It was part of a hectic several months for the 6-foot-5 222-pounder. He fields an average of seven calls per day, he said, and does an hourlong Zoom call per night with a different school. He’s visited, in person, ASU, Miami, Florida State, Michigan, Michigan State and Iowa, among others, with Iowa State coming up this weekend. The Sooners, Sun Devils and Cyclones, Helms said, have recruited him the hardest thus far.
Oklahoma, Helms said, sees him as a player who can go all over the field and stretch a defense vertically, and that’s the one school Helms said he’s certain to officially visit in June. Arizona State hasn’t used its tight ends very much in recent years, but a new offensive coordinator — Zak Hill, previously at Boise State — has shown a willingness to use one more often. ASU is sending Helms daily practice clips of tight end routes as a visual.
“They’re going to have to prove they’re committed to using tight ends,” Helms said.
Nebraska has more recently embraced using them more often, and signed three of them — Thomas Fidone, AJ Rollins and James Carnie — in the 2021 class. Helms conceded that the depth of NU’s tight end room affected his decision “a little bit” but not much.
He figured that he would get quite a bit of grief Monday evening when he left Nebraska off his top 10. But it didn’t happen.
“It was better than I expected, actually,” Helms said. “Nebraska fans were pretty respectful of my decision.”
Signee Spotlights: Get to know the players in Nebraska football's 2021 recruiting class
The "Signee Spotlight" provides all the information you need on the newest batch of Huskers, including rankings, evaluations and a look at how they landed at Nebraska.
Get to know new Husker football signee Mikai Gbayor, an inside linebacker from New Jersey who already seems physically ready to play in the Big Ten.
Get to know new Husker football signee Marques Buford, who's coming to Nebraska from a prep school in Connecticut and found the Huskers through a connection to a childhood friend.
Get to know new Husker football signee Heinrich Haarberg, an athletic quarterback who comes from within Nebraska's borders.
Get to know new Husker football signee Jailen Weaver, a 6-foot-9, 300-pound defensive end from California who's main goal is to try to humiliate blockers on his way to the quarterback.
Get to know new Husker football signee Teddy Prochazka, a towering offensive lineman from Elkhorn South who has the skills to be ranked among the nation's top prospects.
Get to know new Husker football signee James Carnie, a tight end from Norris High School who landed a scholarship offer from Nebraska off the strength of his senior season.
Get to know new Husker football signee Seth Malcom, an eight-man football star from southwest Iowa who said it was "very clear" that Nebraska was right for him.
Get to know new Husker football signee AJ Rollins, the Creighton Prep standout who could be a speedy and athletic tight end for Nebraska. "The sky’s the limit for him."
Get to know new Husker football signee Randolph Kpai, a versatile linebacker who comes from a South Dakota high school that has a track record of producing Nebraska football players.
Get to know new Husker football signee Henry Lutovsky, a massive offensive lineman from Iowa who has big-time potential.
Get to know new Husker football signee Thomas Fidone, a four-star prospect out of Council Bluffs who ranks as one of the top recruits in the nation.
Get to know new Husker football signee Latrell Neville, a wide receiver from the Houston area who fits the mold of what the Huskers want in their pass-catchers.
Get to know new Husker football signee Kamonte Grimes, a wide receiver from Florida who should be a formidable threat in the red zone for Nebraska.
Get to know new Husker football signee Branson Yager, an offensive lineman from Utah who has all the tools necessary to play in the Big Ten.
Get to know new Husker football signee Koby Bretz, who won a state title with Omaha Westside and has a background doing gymnastics and diving, which makes him an all-around athlete.
Get to know new Husker football signee Gabe Ervin, who comes from a powerhouse high school program Georgia and is the lone running back in Nebraska's 2021 recruiting class.
Get to know new Husker football signee Ru'Quan Buckley, a 6-foot-6, 280-pounder from Michigan who most schools recruited to play offensive tackle, but Nebraska likes him for the defensive line.
Get to know new Husker football signee Shawn Hardy, a receiver from Georgia with a 4.0 grade-point average and enough speed to be the vertical threat Nebraska needs.
Get to know new Husker football signee Malik Williams, a cornerback out of Georgia whom coaches say "is the total package" for his position.