Longtime CFLer Jim Barker helps University of Guelph land former University of South Carolina QB Jake Helfrich

Photo courtesy: Kyle Rodriguez/Gryphon Athletics

The University of Guelph secured American quarterback Jake Helfrich with the help of longtime CFL general manager and coach Jim Barker.

Barker, who also works as a private instructor with Scoolu, worked with Helfrich while he played for Providence Day Catholic High School in Charlotte, North Carolina. He completed 92-of-161 passes (57.1 percent) for 1,275 yards with 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions in his senior season, leading the Chargers to a 4-2 record during a coronavirus-shortened schedule in 2020.

“Jake is an ultra-competitive kid that works hard every day to be a great QB. He has above-average arm strength and outstanding accuracy. He can throw from a variety of arm angles, but his will to win is what sets him apart and be the best is what sets him apart from many youngsters I’ve worked with,” Barker said.

The six-foot, 190-pound signal caller earned scholarship offers from the University of Pennsylvania and Eastern Michigan University, while Coastal Carolina University and the University of South Carolina offered him to be a preferred walk-on. He chose to join the Gamecocks and redshirted during his first year on campus at the Southeastern Conference school, undergoing heart surgery in June 2021 to correct a condition he was born with and working with the scout team.

Photo courtesy: South Carolina Athletics

After highly touted five-star recruit Spencer Rattler transferred from the University of Oklahoma to South Carolina, Helfrich decided to explore his options. Barker let University of Guelph Gryphons head coach Ryan Sheahan know that the 20-year-old was looking for an opportunity to play elsewhere and the two spoke in mid-August near the end of training camp.

Helfrich made his final decision and arrived on campus in Guelph on Sunday, August 21, one day after the Gryphons’ 68-0 preseason win over York University. His first on-field practice was Thursday, August 25. He had a week-and-a-half to prepare for his first Ontario University Athletics and U Sports start, which came on Labour Day Monday versus the University of Windsor.

“Jake Helfrich has been a great addition to our football program. He has adapted to the Canadian game very quickly, and has proven to be a very hard worker to catch up to his teammates who had 10 days of practice before he arrived,” Sheahan said.

“He has demonstrated great poise and accuracy in his first weeks with the team, earning him the starting QB position vs. Windsor. We are excited to have him and look forward to seeing his potential unfold.”

During his first game action in Canada, Helfrich displayed a strong arm, great footwork, and an even-keeled demeanour with positive energy. He needs time to adjust to the nuances of playing north of the border — one extra player, wider field, one less down — but his talent is intriguing.

Helfrich did not use any eligibility at South Carolina, which means he can play five seasons of Canadian University football.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.