By: Brendan C. Hall, USA TODAY High School Sports | October 25, 2018
T.L. Hanna (Anderson, S.C.) defensive end Zacch Pickens received his Under Armour All-America Game jersey Thursday morning at his school as part of the American Family Insurance Selection Tour.
“It feels amazing, man. It’s kinda crazy, to be honest,” Pickens laughed following a ceremony at his school. “I’m a little shocked. I’m happy, excited for myself, proud of myself. I guess I’m a little nervous, I guess.”
Really? A consensus five-star recruit, named to USA TODAY’s inaugural Chosen 25, nervous about being honored as one of the nation’s top high school football players?
“I was just smiling,” he said. “I didn’t know . . . It seemed like a dream come true.”
The 6-foot-5, 270-pound Pickens — a South Carolina commit whose brother, Kevin, joined the Gamecocks this season as a walk-on defensive back — is universally revered for his versatility playing up and down the line for Hanna, and the way he combines his fleet feet with brute force, schooling many an opponent with an array of chop-and-pull techniques.
But something funny happened along the way.
After a year of prodding head coach Jeff Herron to get a shot at tailback, Herron finally acquiesced this fall, and to say the experiment has worked out well would put it mildly — no, it’s been monolithic. Pickens leads the 9-0 Yellow Jackets, ranked seventh in this week’s Super 25 Southeast Regional Rankings, in rushing touchdowns (12) and ranks second in total yards (401), averaging more than nine yards a carry.
His favorite part about running the ball?
“The open field,” he laughed. “Everybody’s usually shocked, they don’t know I can juke and make a move like that.”
And, well, he’s carved out plenty of real estate for himself this fall:
This has worked out so well for Pickens, who also leads Hanna in tackles (52) and tackles for loss (9), that he says Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp told him he wants to try using him in goal-line packages when he arrives in Columbia next year.
“At first, I was like . . . uh, I don’t know. They’re all kinda big at that level,” Pickens laughed.
The Under Armour All-America Game is scheduled for Jan. 3 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla. and will be televised live on ESPN2 at 6 p.m. EST.
2019 football recruiting, 2019 Under Armour All America Game, football recruiting, South Carolina, South Carolina Gamecocks, t.l. hanna football, Zacch Pickens, Chosen 25, Football, Under Armour All-America Game Selection Tour