No Ceiling: Zachary Carter transforms body, diet with laser-like focus
{{ timeAgo('2020-10-18 16:59:16 -0500') }} football Edit

No Ceiling: Carter transforms body, diet with laser-like focus

Florida defensive lineman Zachary Carter.
Florida defensive lineman Zachary Carter. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Zachary Carter received high praise from Florida coach Dan Mullen after earning SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week honors for his performance against South Carolina.

Mullen said Carter has bought into his program more than or as much as any D-linemen he’s had at UF, which includes a trio of third-round picks in Jachai Polite, Jonathan Greenard and Jabari Zuniga. Despite missing the start of fall camp due to COVID-19 concerns, the pandemic shutdown and lack of practice didn’t diminish Carter’s focus in the offseason.

“This has been the most focused year that I’ve had since I’ve been here — even the whole time being quarantined. I just really focused on trying to improve myself, be the best athlete that I could be,” Carter said. “Other than the physical part, the mental part also is important, just getting that confidence and just knowing that you’re the guy.”

To improve the physical aspect of his game, Carter changed his eating habits. He cut two meats out of his diet, although an exception will be made for the Razorbacks on Nov. 14.

“I gave up, for the most part, steak and pork,” Carter said. “Red meat, I researched that it's not as good for you as leaner meats like chicken and fish. At first it was hard to give it up, but now my body has gotten used to it. And honestly, it feels much better for myself.”

Eating leaner protein wasn’t the only sacrifice Carter made this offseason, nor did it prevent him from adding weight. He packed on 27 pounds to switch from defensive end to defensive tackle.

The 6-foot-4, 290-pound Carter has embraced the change and provided the Gators some bulk inside with veteran Kyree Campbell unavailable through the first three games.

“I think the transition has worked pretty well,” Carter said. “I played a little inside last year, but not as much as I do this year. At camp, Coach [David] Turner did a really good job touching up some of my technique things that I have playing inside. It’s a different ball game from the edge to the inside. They know that I’m more than capable of doing that.”

Carter will continue to prepare for time at both positions, because his move inside may not be permanent. Florida coach Dan Mullen said he hopes to have Campbell for UF’s next contest, which would allow Carter to play more defensive end.

“I think as we get Kyree back I'll start to play more outside. But, for the most part, I play pretty much both," Carter said. “I’m ready to play inside, I'm ready to play outside. Really wherever they need me, they know I'm ready to fill in. I know both positions equally well, so I’m ready to fit in wherever.”

Carter’s been one of the bright spots on a unit that has underperformed so far this season. His versatility has allowed defensive coordinator Todd Grantham to plug in the gaps on the depth chart during the first few weeks.

He said Carter’s footwork creates matchup problems against guards in space, commending him for bulking up to “get the stoutness you need to play inside” while maintaining his athletic ability.

"Because he’s been in our program for three years his strength has really picked up; his ability to hold the point and be stout,” Grantham said. “That’s really given us the flexibility to play him in there. He probably couldn’t have done that two years ago. So his development in the offseason has allowed him to have that option.”

Carter’s laser-like focus in the spring and summer has translated into quality playing time during the regular season. He has stockpiled 14 tackles — including three TFL — and a team-high 1.5 sacks in three starts.

“Honestly, I don’t think I have a ceiling,” Carter said when asked about his potential in Florida’s defense. “I feel like I could take my game as far as I want to take it, you know? Honestly as a player, I'd say I haven't played my best ball yet, but I'm working to get to that point.”