"Zach is extremely explosive," South Meck head coach Rocky White said. "He's extremely athletic. He's a total game changer. He's been a big time defensive package for us."
During the 2012 season, Gilbert was one of eight freshmen who started on South Meck's varsity team. From his defensive end position, he compiled ten sacks and 69 tackles.
"Last season, I tried to beat my record and go for about 13 [sacks], because I have high expectations," Gilbert said.
Though he fell short of his goal, Gilbert did surpass his freshman sack number with 11. He also recorded 60 tackles, including five for a loss, and forced two fumbles.
"He has 21 sacks coming off his sophomore year playing in one of the toughest conferences in the state - it's pretty doggone impressive," White said.
With a young defense the past couple of seasons, South Meck has employed, as White describes, a vanilla 4-3 defensive scheme. White plans to complicate the scheme this coming season with Gilbert being the focal point.
"We think we have the kids coming back next year that we're really going to be able to highlight [Gilbert's] talents," White said. "We're going to be able to stand him up – play him in space a lot more. We can give some 3-4 looks along with our 4-3 look... Sort of like what [Matthews] Butler did with Peter [Kalambayi] a couple of years. [The offense] has to know where he is because you can't block him one-on-one, and if he's moving around it makes accounting for him difficult."
Charlotte, Florida, and Tennessee have offered Gilbert. He's also hearing from Clemson, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
"North Carolina loves him," White said. "They want him, but I think they're in the situation where they need to be very choosy with who they offer right now. Gunter [Brewer] does know what kind of player he is and is excited about him."
During Gilbert's conversations with Brewer, he's gotten the impression that a UNC offer will be presented as soon as he visits campus – whether that be for a camp or sometime during the spring.
Gilbert hasn't been able to make any recruiting visits yet. In addition to visiting UNC, he has his eye on Tennessee, South Carolina, and Florida.
"I am an SEC guy," Gilbert said. "I love that conference. They have one of the highest percentages of sending players to the NFL."
Gilbert says those feelings don't mean he will end up at a non-SEC school. In fact, he currently doesn't claim any favorite schools.
Before embarking on a 12-year NFL career, Gilbert's father, Sean, played collegiately at Pittsburgh… Gilbert plays basketball at South Meck. A sprained MCL ended his sophomore season after six games… Gilbert grew up a fan of Alabama, Florida, and Pittsburgh. Pitt is obviously because of his father, but he followed Florida because of Tim Tebow and Alabama because of the success they've had in recent years.