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May 3, 2013

Tight ends tied together by circumstance

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.

Like the guy who decides it's finally time to pick A.J. Pierzynski, fans around college football were treated to a run on tight ends last week that was akin to a fantasy baseball draft.

Within a matter of six hours, Ian Bunting committed to Michigan; Jeb Blazevich selected Georgia; Daniel Helm went to Tennessee, and Nic Weishar closed the spree by pledging to Notre Dame.


Bunting said he thought about being the first domino to fall two days prior to his April 23 announcement.

"My family and I went up (to Michigan) the weekend before and got to see everything and meet with the players and coaches," he said. "The coaches had their families with them and that was important to me -- I liked the feeling of being a family and the brotherhood that the players said was part of the program.

"I think that was my favorite part about the trip but I didn't want to commit right away and I slept on it. Then I couldn't stop thinking about it the next day but chose to sleep on it again. Tuesday, I talked to my parents again because I was feeling the same way and decided it was time to commit."

From there the Hinsdale (Ill.) Central three-star prospect made the call to the coaches at Michigan to give his verbal pledge at 3:45 in the afternoon. He followed that call by informing the coaches of his other finalists of his decision -- Notre Dame, Oregon, USC, Northwestern and Vanderbilt among them.

Bunting then texted the news to his friends, and part of the recipient list was Weisher.

"He congratulated me right away," Bunting said. "We talked a bit about why I made my decision and that was really all."

The two met on an unofficial visit to Notre Dame on April 13. They spent the trip together and have stayed in touch since, talking about what they liked about different schools and found a common bond in the recruiting process.

Bunting said that the two players each had Michigan and Notre Dame in their top two and while it wasn't an agreed-upon situation, there was an unspoken understanding that whomever chose first would essentially be making the decision for the other.

"We mentioned it but I don't think we ever really said it would go that way," Bunting said. "It wasn't a race to see who would commit first or anything and it just kind of happened for us."

Weishar said that while that was basically the case he was still between the Fighting Irish and Northwestern once Michigan was out of the picture.

"It made my decision easier," he said. "It got me down to two schools and it was definitely a tough decision but I couldn't be more excited."

Weishar was the last of the four to officially commit. He made his pledge at 9:40 p.m. because he wanted to talk to his parents, who were in Hawaii, after he got the news of Bunting.

WHAT TO EXPECT
The quartet of tight ends are all nationally ranked by Rivals.com and all are in the top 20 within their position group. 



Regional analysts Josh Helmholdt and Woody Wommack have had the chance to do in-person evaluations of each and said that their future college programs should expect productivity in the passing game.

Here is a breakdown of their ability:

Jeb Blazevich (6-3, 240), Georgia: "He is a big target and more of a prototypical tight end. He is not afraid to block but can catch. He is more than a glorified wide receiver with size on the line. He is big and strong and moves well. He doesn't lumber down the field but can also help on defensive ends or pick up blitzes from linebackers." -- Wommack

Ian Bunting (6-7, 215), Michigan: "At 6-foot-7, he is a big target. I think that Michigan will use him a lot like Devin Funchess as a slot or flex-tight end. They will get him the jump ball in the red zone and he will be a great asset because he is essentially a wide receiver in a tight end body." -- Helmholdt

Daniel Helm (6-4, 216), Tennessee: "I really think that they are getting one of the best receiving tight ends in the country. He is almost as explosive as a wide receiver and there is a lot to like about him in the future. I think he has the frame to easily handle getting up to about 250 pounds and keep his speed. At that weight he should also be good enough to use as an in-line blocker." -- Helmholdt

Nic Weishar (6-5, 215), Notre Dame: "What I like most about him is his productivity in the short passing game. He is able to catch screen passes and then has the agility to make people miss. He is a sever mismatch if he is covered up by a linebacker and a lot of safeties because of that agility and speed. He has great hands and a guy that I would expect to be a primary target in the red zone." -- Helmholdt

He learned of the situation not only from Bunting, but from the Michigan coaching staff which made the effort to reach out to his head coach and notify the Marist staff that they were no longer looking for a tight end.

"I think it was pretty awesome that Michigan did that and I respect them for it," Weishar said. "Once I heard that though, I called my parents who were in Hawaii to talk about committing. I didn't decide to do it right away and went to do homework but I couldn't focus. I called them back and we decided that it was right for all of us."

What gave Notre Dame the edge was his faith.

"Both are very similar schools," Weishar said. "Notre Dame being a Catholic school was really a big factor for me. Also living on the South Side of Chicago, there are a lot of Irish fans here and I know that when I put on that golden helmet a lot of people in this area will be cheering for me."

Between the two, Blazevich and Helm filled spots at two SEC programs.

Blazevich is the highest-ranked of the four at No. 164 in the Rivals250 out of Charlotte (N.C.) Christian. He committed at 3:55 p.m. to Georgia.


While he never named a final two -- only a top six of Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Ole Miss -- many believed Mississippi was his other finalist. But the field was narrowed as Clemson received a commitment from Cannon Smith three days earlier.

Helm made his decision at 6:30 p.m.

At the St. Louis stop of the Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour, the Chatham (Ill.) Glenwood prospect said that he had narrowed his focus to a few schools but Tennessee appeared to be the leader.

Rivals.com Midwest recruiting analyst Josh Helmholdt said that the run on commitments were loosely strung together, but outside of them all happening on the same day, none were a surprise.

"There could be something that connected Bunting, Helm and Weichar but going into that day I think all three schools that got those guys were the leaders anyway," Helmholdt said. "I guess the thing that could have prompted it all to happen the way it did was those other choices being eliminated and so that made it easier for them to make the call.

"It snowballed from there but if you had asked me then which school each would pick independently, I would have picked the ones that they ended up with."

The trio of Illinois tight ends were also tied by Bunting who chose to reach out to Helm at day's end.

The two have never met except through Facebook but the conversation was easy to start.

"It was a lot of the same things that I talk about with other guys going through this," Bunting said. "I had never visited Tennessee so I asked him what it was like and he said that it felt like family and he was comfortable there. A lot of this has really been a gut feeling for all of us.

"I also found out that he wears No. 1 and I wear No. 1 so that was cool. I guess if Nic wore No. 1 and we all committed on the same day that would have been weird."




 

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