There aren’t many star prospects in South Carolina’s rising senior class outside of Shaq Roland. However, the class continues to get deeper and deeper.
Case in point: Chapin’s Mason Zandi has burst onto the FBS scene in recent weeks, going from a lightly recruited defensive end to a suddenly in-demand offensive tackle.
The 6-foot-9, 270-pounder was on the radar of a number of FCS programs before attending camps at South Carolina and Clemson earlier this month. His efforts at both of those showcases caused both programs to make scholarship offers last week.
“I told him if he’s going to make it to the next level, he’s going to have to learn how to play offensive line,” Chapin coach Justin Gentry said of his offseason talk with Zandi. “And if we’re going to get to the next level, he’s going to have to learn how to play offensive line. He’s done a lot of camping and going to combines this summer, switching to offense. That’s where the [interest] has come from.”
Gentry still doesn’t have any offensive film on Zandi, but he’s been able to send out footage of Zandi playing defensive end in Chapin’s 3-5 scheme. He was used both as an edge rusher and also as a block-eating, two-gap end last season.
He had success, but Gentry knew that Zandi’s athleticism would be most beneficial on offense this season. He won the shot put at the Class AAA state track meet this spring, besting second-place Jadeveon Clowney by more than three feet.
Gentry had been previously considering moving Zandi to offense. However, Chapin had two three-year starters at tackle last season, allowing Zandi to stay put on defense. With them having graduated, he will be needed to become a two-way starter this season.
“You don’t see many 6-9 defensive ends in the NFL or college,” Gentry said. “But you see a lot of 6-8 or 6-9 offensive tackles. I kind of sold him on that.”
A number of other schools have been in contact with Gentry about Zandi. The coach plans to send out film after a few games this fall, allowing schools to see him playing offense. Gentry expects more offers to materialize once that happens.
One of the best
The consensus among recruiting experts is that there are four South Carolina basketball prospects in the Class of 2012 that are better than all the rest. Edisto’s Brice Johnson, Lexington’s Shaq Roland and Irmo’s Jordan Roper, a Clemson commitment, are widely considered the state’s best prospects, but Richland Northeast’s Travis Hammond is an intriguing player as well.
“He’s really improved his overall game,” said North Carolina-based recruiting analyst Bob Gibbons. “He has to play more inside for his high school, but his position at the next level is wing forward. He potentially could be the best of the [group], because he’s almost 6-5, weighs 220 pounds and is just a superb athlete. And he was knocking down 3-pointers at our clinic.”
Hammond shot 43 percent from behind the 3-point arc for Richland Northeast last season, hitting 68 total 3s. He also broke the school record for single-season rebounds and may end up as the school’s all-time rebounder. He averaged 14.3 points, including 20 per game in region play, last season.
Richland Northeast coach Jason Powell said that a number of Southern and Colonial Conference schools have shown interest in Hammond. He may be too much of a tweener to earn a high-major offer, though his combination of size and shooting ability could eventually earn him such an offer.
“One area he’s got to work on is his athleticism and quickness,” Powell said. “That’s something he’s consistently working on, but he’s got a great build. He’s strong and tough around the basket.”