In his stunting, attacking defense, Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham wants players who are fast, physical and relentless.
Even the defensive tackles.
That’s why defensive end Jabari Zuniga, at only 245 pounds, slid inside to tackle in certain passing situations last season.
That’s why defensive ends Zachary Carter and Malik Langham are doing the same this spring.
Both former four-star recruits are embracing their new, more versatile role on the defensive line.
“I’m pretty versatile. I can play in and out,” said Carter, a redshirt sophomore from Tampa. “I think that’s a good thing.”
“It’s an adjustment just coming from high school to college,” said Langham, a redshirt freshman from Huntsville, Ala. “But anything that can help my team I will do, even moving inside.”
Like Zuniga, Carter and Langham have a defensive end’s skill set — quickness and speed off the edge — that potentially makes them productive pass rushers.
Unlike Zuniga, they have the size that is approaching a defensive tackle’s weight.
Carter is 6-foot-4, 280 pounds, while Langham is 6-4, 286.
Carter was a big defensive end — 270 pounds — when he signed with the Gators three years ago. When he moves inside, he’s still a little undersized for a defensive tackle, but he says that isn’t an issue.
“I feel comfortable there,” he said. “I’m a big, strong guy. I’ll be good in there.
“Inside, I’m not the biggest guy. A lot inside guys weigh around 295, 300. But I’m 280. Inside I feel like my speed really helps me. I also have strength, so both.”
Carter said he is getting equal practice time at his two positions this spring. That likely will carry over into the fall, as the Gators try to enhance their inside pass rush.
He said he’s equally comfortable at both.
“I’m rotating in at tackle in all situations,” Carter said. “It is (different at tackle). At the end, you’re working with a lot more space. Inside, everything’s quicker because the guards are setting lateral, so everything’s quicker. It’s just a little quicker, quicker contact inside.”
While Carter is expected to continue his dual role for the foreseeable future, Langham might be morphing into a full-time defensive tackle.
Grantham said during bowl preparation in January that that’s where he is headed. He’s been physically growing into a tackle. He’s already added 17 pounds of muscle since he’s been here, and that trend very likely could continue under strength and conditioning coordinator Nick Savage.
“Nick Savage has done a lot,” Langham said. “Coming from high school to college, we don’t really lift weights in high school, so it’s a big jump. His name is Savage for a reason.
“Just my body (has changed). I am learning to eat right and make myself better. I am just getting stronger in everything.”
Langham and Carter are strong enough and athletic enough to play both inside and out on the defensive line.
Both appear headed for significant playing time in the fall.
For Carter, it’s been a bit of a wait for the highly recruited prospect.
“It gets hard sometimes (waiting for your opportunity),” Carter said. “But being under a lot of older guys, I got to learn a lot from them the last two years. I feel like when I get my chance, I’ll be able to shine.
“Since I’ve gotten here, in June of 2017, I’ve made tremendous strides, especially on the field and in the weight room. The weight room is what really helped me out on the field. I feel like I’ve made tremendous strides since I’ve been here.”
Langham is hoping to make strides this spring that lead to playing time in the fall. When asked what he hopes to accomplish this spring, he had a simple and succinct reply.
“Play hard, play physical and play fast,” Langham said.
Grantham couldn’t say it any better.
What: Florida Pro Day, which is open to the public
When: 9:30 a.m.
Where: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Parking/Access: Parking available on the east side of the North Lawn of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Fans access the lawn via Fletcher Drive. Overflow parking will be available at Flavet Field. Fans can enter The Swamp through Gate 18, which is located at the corner of Gale Lemerand Dr. and Stadium Road. Fans are encouraged to bring a camera (photo or video) and stop watch to capture the experience. UPD will be doing bag checks upon entry. All memorabilia (UF, NFL, etc.) for participants/players to sign will be not be permitted inside the stadium. Field access is limited to credentialed personnel and current/former players.
Open practice: This will be the fourth and final session open to the public prior to the Orange & Blue Game on April 13 at 1 p.m. Practice is from 4:55–7:10 p.m. at the Sanders Practice Fields.