February 1, 2009

Mason chooses Ole Miss over Tennessee

When Zaccheus Mason informed Houston Nutt and Kent Austin of his college decision, the Ole Miss head coach and offensive coordinator, respectively, didn't excitedly break into dance.

They were too shocked.

"They said that I had a good poker face," Mason said with a laugh. "I guess they really weren't sure where I was leaning to. I guess I just dropped it on them."

Mason, a 6-foot-5, 250-pounder from Nashville (Christ Presbyterian Academy), Tenn., committed to Ole Miss on Sunday, choosing the Rebels over Tennessee one day after entertaining Nutt and Austin in his home on Saturday night. "I could really tell they were excited about it. I could tell they had no idea that I was leaning to them. They were excited and it was good to see that."

Mason, a three-star prospect who turned down more than 30 Division I basketball offers to play football, caught 34 passes for 460 yards and seven touchdowns last season. He was the No. 1 tight end target on Ole Miss' wish list, and the Rebels recruited him accordingly.

"It basically just came down to what I felt comfortable with," said Mason, who visited Tennessee and Ole Miss on back-to-back weekends last month. "Me and my mom sat down and we were trying to put down the pros and cons of both Ole Miss and UT. Basically, we couldn't find anything wrong with Ole Miss. There was nothing questionable. I just felt really comfortable there, and everybody believed in Coach Nutt and what he's doing."

Mason also grew close to Austin, a Nashville native who was a quarterback at Ole Miss before embarking on a successful playing and coaching career in the Canadian Football League.

"Me and my mom really enjoyed him and how hard he was recruiting me," Mason said. "You could tell he meant everything he said. Me and him had a bunch of talks. It was a lot of fun. With him being the offensive coordinator, it was kind of a way for me to bond with him before anything became official."

Mason said Austin and Nutt have told him they plan to make him a big part of the Rebels' passing game in the fall. Ole Miss returns rising senior Gerald Harris at tight end, but the rest of the players at the position are unproven.

"They want me to come in and start on a weight program in June and get everything started up," Mason said. "They said they're going to find ways to get me the ball. They said they want a threat for Jevan Snead the next few years.

"I'm really excited. (Ole Miss tight ends) Coach (James) Shibest said he's going to be open to anything in terms of trying to get me the ball in any possible way. I really like to hear that coming from the offensive coordinator and the tight ends coach. It's really impressive that they're willing to let the playmakers make plays. I was really impressed with the whole situation."

Mason will sign a national letter-of-intent with Ole Miss on Wednesday. He said Sunday he'll do so looking excitedly toward the future.

"I can see nothing but good," Mason said. "The coaches are really pumped. You can just tell that it's a big deal up ahead in the future. I didn't want to be the one up against them, so I had to join them."

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