To be a successful starting quarterback, players not only have to be in peak physical condition, they must also be mentally sharp.
For backup quarterbacks, there is the added bonus of having to prepare every day as if you are the starter, yet not knowing if, or even when, your number might get called.
After walking on at Clemson, and after getting limited experience as a freshman last season, Hunter Helms entered fall camp as the backup to D.J. Uiagalelei.
Despite Taisun Phommachanh bouncing back much quicker than expected from an Achilles tear suffered in the spring, Helms very easily could start the season second on the depth chart and head coach Dabo Swinney is seeing a much different player this fall.
"Hunter obviously has been here a year," Swinney said after Wednesday's practice. "He's got a very good grasp and a very good foundation of our system. Hunter's way better than he was in the spring."
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After having what Swinney termed as an up and down spring, the redshirt freshman has looked much more comfortable running the offense throughout the first week of camp and more importantly is starting to find that consistency the coaches are looking for.
"He's just playing with more confidence," Swinney said. "At times was a little overwhelmed in the spring because he's in there with the ones and the twos, kind of mixing it up. Had some highs and some lows but he's been very consistent. And I think he's just in a good place mentally."
Helms' most extensive action as a freshman came in a lopsided win over Georgia Tech when he completed 5-7 passes for 77 yards and two touchdowns.
Offensive coordinator Tony Elliott has also been pleased with the progress of the second-year quarterback, especially the way he has approached his second fall camp mentally.
"Mentally he's been really sharp, so far," Elliott said Tuesday. "Again, it's day four of install and a lot of that is carryover from the spring. We're gonna start adding more as we get into day six, seven, and eight and want to see how he does with that, but so far, encouraged by where he is mentally."
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