Mammoth in-state OL earns USC, CU offers
In-state offensive lineman Mason Zandi was an unknown commodity in recruiting circles just a few weeks ago, but the enormous tackle prospect has burst onto the scene with impressive camp performances recently, earning full scholarship offers from both South Carolina and Clemson. Zandi, who is not yet rated on Scout.com, discussed the series of events that led to him picking up the two major offers.
"I started my summer with the expectation of working hard and just trying to get after it. I wanted to do everything I could to impress the college scouts," Zandi said. "I went up to Clemson for a three day camp, and they gave me the option to grayshirt for them. I was privileged and honored to have that offer. Then that following Saturday I went up to South Carolina for camp, and they offered me a few days later. The next day I got in contact with Clemson again, and they took back the grayshirt and said I had a full offer."
Zandi, who is a humble and well spoken young man, credits hard work and the positive influences around him for helping him reach his goal of earning college scholarship offers.
"It's a relief because I've been working really hard the past few years of my life to obtain a goal like that," he said. "I'm real privileged and honored to be around the people I am right now and to have schools of that nature take the time to look at me."
Growing up in the Palmetto State, Zandi is already quite familiar with both South Carolina and Clemson. His recent trips to both campuses has further helped him understand what the two schools have to offer. Now with both offers in hand, the talented lineman shared his thoughts on the two programs, and he admitted that he grew up pulling for one of the in-state schools on the gridiron.
South Carolina - "The main thing that they have is they want to be a championship team. They're coming off the big SEC-East title, and they have a lot of prestige and a lot of honor in their program. When they play, they play with a little pep in their step. They want to get after it every practice, and I enjoy the heck out of it, to be honest. It's an honor to be offered by them. I actually grew up a South Carolina fan, so the offer means a lot to me."
Clemson - "With Clemson, family is the one thing that sticks out in my head. It's a family up there. Whether you're the head coach or the water boy, no one is better than the other. Everyone is a family up there."
Zandi, who is still learning the ropes of how to play on the offensive line, had the opportunity to work out for both South Carolina's Shawn Elliott and Clemson's Robbie Caldwell during his camp stops, and both of the veteran offensive line coaches made a lasting impression on the Chapin High School standout.
"Coach Elliott is a fiery man. He wants to get after your tail. He's going to let you know what you did wrong, and being the great coach that he is, he's going to let you know exactly how to fix it. That's a big thing for me, because this is my first year playing offensive tackle," Zandi said of his experience working with USC's offensive line coach. "Coach Caldwell is a great man. He'll work with you, and like I said about Coach Elliott, he'll get after you. He'll let you know what you did wrong. Both of them have great experience coaching, and they can tell you exactly how to fix what you're doing, down to the tee. Coach Caldwell, he's just a great guy. He knows how to respond to each individual he has."
According to Zandi, both Elliott and Caldwell like the toughness and tenacity that he brings to the football field as a trenchman.
"They both commented on my toughness and said that I don't quit. They like that I can respond to adversity and always put forth my best effort."
Zandi, who did not claim a favorite between the two in-state schools, is unsure of when he will make a decision on his college choice, but he does know what he is looking for in a school.
"I've given thought to (when I will make a commitment), but right now I don't have a date. I want to make sure that everything lines up, and I want to weigh the goods and bads with my family. To me, family is first, and I want to make sure that where I go I'll be more than happy to spend my four years there," he said. "Academics are always first. The environment is important too. I want to have an environment where I can take my mom to go for long walks on the street and show her around campus. The people are very important to me too. The kind of people you surround yourself with makes the kind of person you'll be. That's just the way it is. Then I'll look at the prestige and the honor (within the program). If a football team and community hold a lot of pride in their school, then it's a great feeling."
Looking ahead to his senior season this fall, Zandi plans to put everything that he has into winning a state title and being a leader on his team.
"I don't strap up my cleats unless I think my team is going to win a state championship. That's just how I am. I don't feel you should play the game if you don't have intentions of winning it all. My personal goals are to help my team as much as I can. Of course, there's all the awards and stuff like that, but that's not me. It's all about my team. I'm one guy out of eleven. If I do my job right but ten guys don't do their job right, then we're all gonna fall. We've got to be together. My personal goal is to help the man next to me."
Although he is still a secret to out of state programs, it may only be a matter of time until other schools begin recruiting Zandi. The athletic offensive tackle, who played defensive end prior to this year, said that he does not plan on attending any more camps this summer, but he did note that he would enjoy hearing from programs like NC State, Tennessee, Georgia, and Maryland.
Many high school recruits are listed with inflated heights and weights in this day and age, but that is not the case with Zandi, who measured in at a stout 6-8 and 265 pounds at a recent Shrine Bowl combine. The versatile athlete also competes in shot put and discus for the Chapin track team, and he won the AAA State Championship this year in shot put, despite it being his first year doing it.
Stay tuned to GamecockAnthem.com and Scout.com for all the latest on this emerging in-state lineman.
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