June 29, 2010

Four-star offensive tackle has six out front

Zach DeBell didn't know what to expect when he and his father made the drive to Mississippi last October for the Rebels' homecoming date with UAB.

The DeBells spent the night before the game in Tupelo, and coincidentally, so did the Ole Miss team.

Suddenly, DeBell was doing more than eating breakfast in the hotel lobby. The 6-foot-7, 265-pound offensive tackle from Tarpon Springs, Fla., was watching the Rebels' last-minute walk-through in the parking lot and observing the squad's interaction.

"When we got there, people were walking around in Ole Miss sweats and jumpsuits," DeBell said laughing. "Then the next morning I saw them in the lobby and I thought, 'This is more than a coincidence.' They stayed at the same hotel and I was like, 'Holy crap. This is so cool.'"

Eight months later, DeBell's interest in the Ole Miss program has jumped, and the feeling is apparently mutual. On Tuesday, the four-star standout named a top six, and the Rebels are in it.

DeBell, ranked by Rivals.com as the nation's No. 14 offensive tackle prospect and No. 115 overall prospect, said Ole Miss, Notre Dame, Georgia, Tennessee, South Florida and UCLA are atop his list, one that includes at least 20 scholarship offers.

Those six schools, DeBell said, have at least one thing in common.

"Everyone's very nice," DeBell said. "The hospitality is very heartwarming and welcoming in a way. I really like that."

As for the Rebels, DeBell said he "didn't get to see everything" during his trip to Oxford last fall. "I'd like to go back and see more."

DeBell said he's hoping to visit some of his favorite schools on an unofficial basis later this summer, though those plans are complicated by early-morning workouts and his part-time job as a cashier at a local Winn-Dixie grocery story. "Right now, I'm just talking to my parents about unofficial visits, when can we take them, what the means for transportation would be. None of my plans are in concrete."

DeBell said he's had several discussions with Ole Miss co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Mike Markuson as well as his lead recruiter, Rebel recruiting coordinator/cornerbacks coach Chris Vaughn. DeBell said he doesn't plan to make a decision regarding his college home until he takes some or all of his five allotted official visits.

As for his game, Debell said his immediate focus is in the weight room.

"I want to get stronger and I need to pack on more muscle," Debell said. "I really need to work on my pad level and my technique."

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