ATHENS – Zach DeBell said he did not plan to commit to Georgia when he drove to Athens with his family for the Dawg Night camp on Friday. But he should have seen the signs.
The first one came when he stopped at a Wal-Mart just outside of town with his Mom, Dad and younger sister Samantha. He decided, for no particular reason, to buy a bathing suit. And the one he grabbed was red and black and emblazoned with a Georgia G.
“I actually bought a pair of Georgia swim trunks,” he said with a laugh. “I didn’t think about it at the time. I was like, you know what, I need a bathing suit; I’m going to buy a bathing suit.”
A couple of hours later DeBell committed Georgia head coach Mark Richt on the spot. He did it even before he and 100 or so college prospects took the field at the Woodruff Practice facility.
Swim trunks or not, it was a spontaneous decision, DeBell insisted.
“I surprised myself and my mom and dad,” said the 6-foot-7, 265-pound left tackle. “Coach Richt told us that there was only one spot left. I had asked him before to tell me when there was one spot and I knew there was only one spot and that’s what he told me. So I jumped on it.”
A couple of hours later, Nathan Theus displayed the same kind of spontaniety. The highly-touted, long snapper from Jacksonville committed on the practive fields shortly after completing kicking drills halfway through the 2 1/2-hour practice.
“I actually went into the camp open-minded; I didn’t know if I was going to commit or not,” Theus said. “I had planned to go to Florida’s Friday Night Lights next week. But when I got here, it really clicked. It really felt like home. It just felt really comfortable and I couldn’t stop myself from committing.”
With their pledges, the Bulldogs now have 15 commitments. However, in Theus’ case, he won’t enroll until January of 2012, effectively making him a “grayshirt.” But it’s something that Theus said he prefers. It will mean he will be in school the same time as his younger brother. John Theus, a 6-6, 274-pound tackle, is considered one of the top offensive line prospects of 2012. The brothers play for the Bolles School in Jacksonville, Fla., where current Bulldogs Brent Benedict and Shaun Chapas graduated.
Nathan Theus becomes the first snapper Richt offered a scholarship right out of high school. Then again, Theus is not just any snapper. At a recent camp his snap times averaged from .63 to .65 seconds.
“Coach [Todd] Grantham said those are NFL times,” said Theus, who credits a decade of training at the Ray Guy Kicking Academy for his special skills.
With DeBell’s commitment, DeBell cut short a trip that was to have continued Saturday with a stop at Auburn. The DeBells have been traveling all week with stops at South Carolina and Tennessee wrapped around two trips to the home of Zach’s late grandmother in Boone, N.C. But after giving the Bulldogs his commitment, he canceled plans to attend both the Tigers’ camp and Florida’s famous “Friday Night Lights” event next week in Gainesville.
DeBell has a total of 25 offers but ultimately chose the Bulldogs over South Carolina, Tennessee and Notre Dame. He said things might have turned out differently had the timing of in-state Gators been better.
“It’s kind of strange because my coach just informed me I think 20 minutes ago that Florida offered me,” DeBell said as he rode south down 441 about 11 p.m. Friday. “I said, ‘That’s great, but I’m a Dawg!’”
He shouted the last word.
DeBell and Theus were the only participants to make a move, but there were a lot of talented prospects getting a lot of attention Friday night.
James Wilder Jr. of Tampa and Isaiah Crowell of Columbus, two of the top running backs in America, looked on. So did Crowell’s Carver teammates Gabriel Wright and Deion Bonner, and five-star linebacker prospect Stephone Anthony of Wadesboro, N.C.
Already committed prospects such as quarterback Christian LeMay, wide receivers Justin Scott-Wesley and Zack Witchett and offensive lineman Hunter Long ran through drills.
Meanwhile 2012 prospects wide receiver C.J. Curry of North Hall and cornerback Geno Smith of St. Pius received scholarship offers. So it was an eventful night in Athens.
“I’m still soaking it all in,” DeBell said.
GEORGIA 2011 COMMITMENTS
* Theus will not enroll until January of 2012.