Just one mention of the name Zach Carter and eyes light up. Carter, a redshirt sophomore from Tampa has the respect and even admiration of all of his peers despite having played sparingly since arriving on campus.
When asked to describe Carter in just one word his teammates responded with: Legendary. Monster. Swiss Army Knife. Big. Energetic. Legendary.
That’s high praise for a guy who has only appeared in nine games. So what is it that is keeping Carter off the field? Is it as simple as having to wait his turn? Was it something he didn’t do or did he, just like many other young players, just need to continue to develop and grow?
Carter came to Florida as a highly sought after prospect and was the Tampa Bay Times’ Blue Chip Player of the Year for the 2016 season. He was tall, fast, athletic and he seemingly put it all together on the field. He was a can’t miss guy. Then he took a redshirt his freshman year. That’s fine. A lot of players need that year to grow and develop but there was so much excitement surrounding Carter’s arrival in Gainesville some fans wanted answers.
“I feel like I have a big chip on my shoulder because, everybody was recruited highly coming out of high school, but I feel like since I’ve been at Florida I haven’t been able to do what I wanted to do yet,” Carter said. “I just want to go out there and prove that I can help this team and help it be the best it can be.”
His redshirt freshman season netted just eight tackles in a limited role and then in the spring Carter kind of bounced around from inside to outside seemingly trying to find a home.
“The thing is I’ve seen him since January and I already kind of knew about him coming in. We didn’t really know what position he was going to play, whether he was going to go inside or outside,” Jon Greenard said. “To see his improvement, he can do a lot of things and go make a lot of plays.”
Todd Grantham told reporters that he does intend to continue playing Carter at multiple positions. It’s something that took Carter some time to wrap his head around but he’s gifted. Not every defensive lineman is born with the physical gifts that Carter has. He’s big enough to wrestle with grown men on the inside (he weighs 285 pounds) but fast and twitchy enough to get around quicker and faster tackles. Carter says he’s been playing inside and outside “about equally” through the first two weeks of camp.
Carter has a new defensive line coach now. He learned from his previous coach, al Sunseri, that he needed his mind to catch up to his body. It’s a lesson most freshmen need to learn when they get to this level. You can’t rely on physical gifts alone, you need to be mentally strong and smarter than your opponent. His new coach, David Turner is more of a technician. He’s helped Carter work on his pass rushing moves and continue to round out into the player that he, his coaches and his teammates know he can be.
Good things come to those who wait. Zach Carter has waited two years to show what his potential is and 2019 will be the year he puts it on display.
“I’ll tell you, Zach could be legendary,” Kyree Campbell said. “Zach has a gift of; he has an arsenal of moves. So when he lines up against an offensive lineman, it’s not that he already has a move in his mind. I can see when he goes, he works his first move and if the first move doesn’t work he goes to a counter. And he’s good at picking that up quick. That’s what makes him a great player.”