Following a unique 2020 season, many programs around the nation have been looking to reestablish themselves and their identity through their offseason programs.
The Florida Gators' identity rested in the unsustainable hope to outscore opponents with a high-powered passing attack and lackluster defensive efforts. However, in 2021, Florida looks to overcome last year's narrative, engineering success on both sides of the ball.
To do so, the Gators — like the great teams of college football — will look to find their identity through a select handful of players vying to establish themselves as the undenied leaders of the pack.
In anticipation of another year of high expectations for Florida football, AllGators analyzes five individuals that could make or break UF's season with their on-field production as well as their impact off of it.
Coming in at No. 2 is redshirt senior defenisve lineman Zachary Carter.
Since announcing his return to the Gators, Carter has been coined as the main catalyst for Todd Grantham's defense to resurrect itself following 2020's uninspiring rendition.
Slated to enter his final season in the orange and blue, Carter is hungrier than ever to accomplish the goals he feels the team left on the field last season.
"I kind of made a promise to myself, I'm going to give everything I've got this year, and I'm going to try to help my team the best I can, help lead my team in some type of way," Carter said at SEC Football Media Days in July. "I just feel we really have some unfinished business, and I wanted to be a part of that."
Arriving as part of the 2017 recruiting cycle, Carter is one of the last remaining players from the Jim McElwain era of Florida football. With a first-hand account of the transition from the philosophies of the old regime to the new regime, Carter has been a cornerstone in Florida's culture shift.
Understanding the principles that the staff has implemented into the program, Carter is set to lead by example in 2021, something he has done in the past while exemplifying Dan Mullen's mantra of "relentless effort."
Similar to Ethan White, Carter entered the Florida program far from a suitable playing frame but worked tirelessly to rework his body under strength coach Nick Savage. Despite undergoing an intense regiment of bulking and cutting that has led to his weight fluctuation in his five years at UF, Carter's bodily transformation is an impressive feat.
Coming out of high school listed at 250 pounds according to his 247Sports recruiting profile, Carter recently checked in at 285 pounds — 35 pounds that is nearly all muscle mass rather than fat — a testament to his dedication to the game and his aspired role in the defense.
Accounting for a team-leading 9.5 tackles for loss and five sacks, 36 tackles, two pass breakups, one fumble recovery and one touchdown — a scoop-and-score off former teammate Feleipe Franks and Arkansas — in 2020, Carter's turned his efforts into production to be a bright spot for the Gators defense.
Progressively getting better each season, Carter enters his final year with something to prove, a desire that — paired with his talent development — landed him on the preseason ALL-SEC list as a first-team defensive lineman.
As a result, Carter carries the weight of having arguably the highest expectations of any Gators defender from staff and onlookers.
As he looks to continue his upward trend in 2021, Carter commands significant responsibilities as a veteran presence in an otherwise revamped defensive line unit, a role he has seemingly accepted with open arm this offseason.
With a strong senior campaign, Carter has the opportunity to catapult the Gators back into the SEC Championship for the second straight year — another shot at the “unfinished business” — while realizing his preseason accolade and increasing his value in the 2022 NFL Draft simultaneously.
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