Mullen praises buy-in from Zachary Carter, Florida's saving grace at DT
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Mullen praises buy-in from Carter, Florida's saving grace at DT

Florida defensive lineman Zachary Carter.
Florida defensive lineman Zachary Carter. (Brad McClenny-USA TODAY NETWORK)

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Zachary Carter is not just settled in at his new position, but thriving.

The redshirt junior was named SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week on Monday for his performance in Florida’s 38-24 win over South Carolina. Carter finished with a team-high eight tackles and led the Gators in tackles for loss (1.5) and sacks (1.5).

It was the first time in his career recording more than a full sack in a game.

“Zach’s a guy that has bought into our program more than or at least as much as any of the D-linemen that we’ve had since we’ve been here,” UF coach Dan Mullen said, “in what we expect from him, with the effort from him we expect to play, and how we expect him to do it. He’s done an amazing job of buying into all of that.”

Carter primarily played strongside defensive end during his first two year under Mullen, but did slide inside at times. This offseason, however, he bulked up 27 pounds to switch to defensive tackle.

Mullen praised the 6-foot-4, 290-pound Carter for making the transition.

“You play inside and outside, there’s a little bit of a mix there,” he said. “Part of that is you look at his self evaluation: ‘I’m not this twitchy, edge rusher, even though I have the athletic ability to play defensive end. I’m not this big, bulky interior guy. So how do I become this guy that’s a really athletic interior guy that can be a bigger outside guy?’ And really buy into that.

“You’ve seen him look at what his strengths are and then play to his strengths and buy into his strengths, and you see the success he’s having now. He’s not going to be a big 340 inside guy, but he’s really quick. He’s big enough to be quick inside and he’s not this twitch edge guy, but he’s a big edge guy that has athletic ability. So that helps him create those different matchups where we can move him around on the field.”

Carter’s play has also helped the Gators deal with their attrition at defensive tackle, where they have just six bodies. Senior Elijah Conliffe received a medical exemption this summer, while two-year starter Kyree Campbell has been unavailable so far and freshman Lamar Goods is out with a foot injury.

“I think really the first two games, different guys that we’ve had missing on defense has made it a challenge. Guys missed for multiple reasons,” Mullen said. “It’s forced [Carter] to have to step up a lot more.

“But sometimes when you have guys out, it might be a struggle on that given week, but it creates depth in the long term of a season. And hopefully we’re going to see that as we move forward. We’re going to start to have a lot more depth on the defensive front.”