Zach Carter’s defensive line mates have no problem describing him in a few words. Or even just one.
“Monster,” junior tackle Tedarrell Slaton said.
“Energetic,” senior tackle Adam Shuler said.
“Swiss Army Knife,” senior end Jonathan Greenard said.
“Big, relentless effort guy,” junior end Jeremiah Moon said.
“My dawg,” junior tackle Kyree Campbell said.
Those are all glowing words coming from his D-line brothers, and Carter certainly will be appreciative when he sees them.
But these aren’t necessarily the words he’s looking for to describe him at this stage of his Florida career. He’s actually striving for just one.
He wants to be a player, a guy who gets on the field and makes plays and helps his team win and turns all his potential — and there is a lot of it — into production.
“I’m really hungry,” Carter said after Friday’s practice. “I’m just ready to get out there and make some plays for the Gators.”
At 6-foot-4, 285 pounds, strong and athletic, the four-star prospect out of Tampa Hillsborough has always looked the part of a player. But he simply hasn’t been one in his first two years in Gainesville.
He redshirted his freshman year in 2017. Last season as a redshirt freshman, he appeared in nine games, with most of his playing time coming on special teams. On defense, he recorded just eight tackles, had one tackle for a loss, two pass breakups and a quarterback hurry.
He wants more.
“I feel like I have a big chip on my shoulder,” Carter said. “I feel like since I’ve been at Florida I haven’t been able to do what I wanted to do yet. I just want to go out there and prove that I can help this team and help it be the best it can be.”
If Carter is worried about whether it will happen in 2019, he can relax. His defensive line teammates can reassure him that he’s going to be a major contributor this season.
A real player.
“I’ll tell you, Zach could be legendary,” Campbell said. “Zach has a gift, 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.”
His moves will help him get on the field this season. So will his versatility.
Recruited as a defensive end, Carter is now playing end and tackle, splitting his reps between the two. He made the move inside during the spring and now is comfortable at both positions.
I’m trying to learn more positions because the more I know the more versatile I’ll be,” he said. “I’ll be able to help the defense out.”
Greenard said Carter can play every position along the defensive front, including the hybrid buck position, which is a combination outside linebacker/end. That, of course, is why Greenard describes him as a Swiss Army Knife.
“That kid, I mean, he can go to the edge, he can rush, he can go inside to play the run. He’s stout. He’s an athlete,” Greenard said. “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.
“To see his improvement, he can do a lot of things and go make a lot of plays. I’m not worried about how he’s going to do. He’s going to do his
thing. Zach’s going to get his.”
Carter has been putting in the work to get to this point. Under Nick Savage, he has changed his body type and now looks even more like a player. A very big, athletic player.
“I really only put on about five pounds, but for some reason, a lot of people say I look a little bigger,” he said. “The thing is, Coach Savage knows how to take away fat and put on good weight.”
By all accounts, Carter has been relentless in the weight room and is being the same on the practice field now in preseason camp.
“He gives everything he has every day, and he’s come a long way,” Moon said.
“A monster,” Slaton said. “His legs are kind of short, but he’s strong, really strong up top. He’s just hungry because he’s a guy who hasn’t played in two years. He’s trying to get after the ball. He’s trying to show everybody that he can really play.”
The opportunity is expected to come this season, starting with the opener against Miami on Aug. 24. Carter is on target to be in the playing rotation on the defensive line, at tackle and end and, who knows, maybe even buck.
He’s just ready to get after it, to be a player.
“I’m excited, man. It’s been a long time,” Carter said. “Wherever they need me, I just want to help the team in any way possible.”