Columbia (Tenn.) Central High coach Vance Bellew has had more than a few players recruited by major college programs. He said this week he wishes they all went about their business the way Georgia Tech did with Shaquille Mason.
Mason — better known as “Shaq” — is a wide-bodied, fleet-footed offensive lineman who helped lead the Lions to a runner-up finish in the state 5A playoffs in Tennessee this past season. The 6-foot-2, 307-pounder committed to Georgia Tech on June 12th during its Junior-Senior Camp.
“I give Georgia Tech and Coach [Andy] McCollum (Tech’s recruiting coordinator) a lot of credit,” Belew said. “They heard about him, they called about him, they came to the school and watched his film. They said they wanted him to come to their camp, he came, they liked him and they offered.
“They didn’t worry about who else had offered him or how many stars he had. I liked the way they went about it.”
The reality is, Mason did not have any other offers before the Yellow Jackets threw one his way in the middle of lunch during that camp the weekend before last. The website GoJackets.com lists him with offers from Clemson, Kentucky, South Carolina, Memphis and Middle Tennessee State. That’s simply not true, according to Mason.
“No sir,” he said. “I was getting recruited heavily by schools but I had no offers other than Tech.”
Mason, who has a 3.5 GPA and scored well on the SAT, said he had been hearing a lot from Clemson, Tennessee and Vanderbilt, among others.
There’s a picture on the Columbia Central High website of a pulling Mason absolutely road-grading a linebacker in the state championship game last December (I’m still trying to track down the photographer for permission to use it) and the running back breaking free up the middle of the field off the block. That, Belew said, is how the Jackets envision utilizing Mason, who starts at left tackle in high school but projects as a guard in college.
“We used him at both guard and tackle,” said Belew, who also played Mason at defensive tackle. “He moves so well we pulled him a lot to take advantage of his mobility. He’s a very good all-around athlete and very explosive at the point of contact.”
As for Mason’s recruitment, Belew believes it was really just getting started.
“I feel like he was going to get several offers over the course of the summer, just going by what coaches were telling us,” Belew said. “As far as the coaches that saw film of him and came here and saw him at our school, they liked him a lot. Some would like him to be a little taller. But he’s a 305-pound kid who is very athletic. To me he is a prize recruit.”
And Belew said Mason is still growing. He began last season at 6 feet, one-half-inch. He recently measured 6-2.
As for his courtship with the Jackets, it was quick. Mason said he hadn’t heard from them until McCollum came to one of his spring practices.
“I’ve always really liked Georgia Tech,” he said. “I didn’t really know that much about them but I’ve always liked the way the played and I like everything about the school.”
In particular Mason is intrigued by coach Paul Johnson’s spread-option offense.
“It’s a unique style of play,” he said. “I like it.”
And the Jackets like him.