Any number of colleges had been interested in David Helton, who is ranked as the top linebacker prospect in Tennessee. They waited and now are out of luck.

Helton, anxious about the recruiting process being a distraction to himself and his Baylor School teammates this season, found his college home earlier this summer.

He found what he wanted on a visit to Duke and committed.

"Coach (David) Cutcliffe and his staff are absolutely unreal," said Helton, who had visited scores of college campuses after his sophomore year and earlier this year. "When I went to the campus and saw everything, I felt I fit there. I didn't get that feeling anywhere else. I don't know what else I could have been looking for."

Georgia Tech, Syracuse, Memphis and Kansas were among schools that had tendered offers before his commitment to the Blue Devils.

"David had told me earlier in the spring that he wanted to have a decision made before we went into camp," Baylor coach Phil Massey said. "He was worried about the distractions, so that's a tribute to him. He is a very conscientious youngster, and his decision gives him a little freedom.

"He doesn't want to let anybody down, and he could have gotten tied up after developing relationships with coaches at five or six schools and begun to worry about it. It was best for him and for us for him to commit early."

Verbal commitments are nonbinding, so Helton could change his mind before national signing day in February.

"If I hear from any recruiters, I'll be polite and thank them for calling, but I'm committed to Duke," he said.

What the Blue Devils are getting is a 6-foot-4, 225-pound middle linebacker who could play defensive end or even tight end or H-back on offense.

A couple of coaches from 2009 opponents listed him as the toughest player they faced all season.

"We never did block that kid," one of them said.

Helton has led the Red Raiders in tackles the past two years and is projected to finish high on the school's all-time list.

"He'll be a third-year starter and he's the type that's going to stick his head into whatever comes his way," Massey said. "He's the quarterback of our defense, and we know whatever comes into the middle will be taken care of."