Gators notebook: Carter explains decision to return, Watson 'impressive' for size

Zach Abolverdi
The Gainesville Sun
Florida defensive end Zachary Carter made the decision to return for his redshirt senior season.

Fielding questions from the media Thursday night following Florida’s first spring practice, Zachary Carter handled himself like a pro at the podium. 

He could have turned pro after leading the Gators in sacks (5.0) and tackles for loss (9.5) last year, but also considered his other future profession. 

“I think I'll do good on that side of the camera,” Carter told reporters after revealing that he’s majoring in journalism at UF. “I really want to get my degree.”

Graduation was one of the main reasons he decided to come back to school for his redshirt senior season. Despite his NFL aspirations and potential, Carter is mindful of his post-playing career. 

“I just know that this football stuff, it doesn't last forever,” he said. “I'm excited that I could possibly have a future in the NFL, but everybody says it stands for 'Not For Long.' 

“So it's just good to have that degree. I think more guys should have that attitude towards football and school, but everybody's in a different situation. But that was a big thing for me.”

Another important factor for Carter, he said, was wanting to leave a mark and legacy at UF. That could be facilitated this year by him playing strongside defensive end on a full-time basis instead of working as an interior lineman, too.

He started the first three games of last season at defensive tackle with Kyree Campbell unavailable, although Carter was named SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week vs. South Carolina. He also earned that recognition playing from his end spot against Arkansas.

“I think it’ll be a good thing, especially this spring, getting full-time reps at end,” Carter said. “Since I've been here, I've kind of been all over the place. Just, you know, filling in wherever they need me, I'm that type of guy. But this spring and moving forward, I plan on trying to master the position; just keep getting better at it.”

Carter is also rocking a new jersey number in 2021. After wearing No. 17 for the last three years, he has switched to No. 6. 

And no, Carter didn’t pick that number because of former Gator player Dante Fowler Jr. 

“Since I've been here I really always wanted a single digit, but I've never really been able to get a single-digit number,” Carter said. “My last year obviously I got presented the opportunity, so I was like, 'Hey, why not?’ 

“A lot of people might think I just went and got six because of Dante Fowler. I look up to him, most definitely. I even talked to him before. He was a great player, Gator great, but I really just wanted a single-digit number. I think it looks good on me, though.”

Tampa bred

Like Carter, another Tampa-area defensive lineman joined the Gators this year in early enrollee Desmond Watson. 

Florida coach Dan Mullen said Watson reported to campus last month at 6-foot-5, 440 pounds, and he’s currently listed at 432 on the team’s spring roster.

Carter has never seen a freshman that big. 

“No, but hey, that's what we breed in Tampa,” Carter said. “I'm really excited for big Des. He's going to have a bright future. He's a big kid, though. Big kid. Dang."

Mullen quipped that Watson needs to lose a 12-year-old and said his target weight right now is 375. Once he drops more than 50 pounds with strength coach Nick Savage, Carter expects Watson to look like a “monster.”

“Man, I’m telling you. He’s pretty impressive for his size and I know he'll continue to trim up, but he has a lot of potential,” Carter said. “Once you get a little Savage, it’ll be different.”  

Athleticism at QB

With the departure of starter Kyle Trask, Florida’s offense will now feature dual-threat quarterbacks Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson at the position. 

Jones’ running ability has already been showcased in seasons past, and Richardson will also contribute in the run game this year.

Gators wide receiver Justin Shorter said both of them throw great passes, but their athleticism adds another wrinkle to the offense. 

“I would say it definitely changes a lot. It’s different, having those quarterbacks,” Shorter said. “Obviously Emory and Anthony and even some of the freshman quarterbacks that came in (Carlos Del Rio-Wilson and Jalen Kitna), they’re so athletic. 

“They’re dual-threat where they can pull it and run for 60 yards and make you fall on your knees, you know? I feel like that’s going to be like a big part of our offense this year.”

The 6-foot-4, 232-pound Richardson, who also starred on the Eastside High basketball team, may be the most athletic quarterback of the group. He wowed his teammates after Thursday’s practice. 

“Anthony Richardson was doing backflips down the field,” Shorter said. “I can’t do one. I’ve like tried one time and landed on my neck and was like, ‘Nah, I’m never going to do one again.’”