Photo: Zachary Carter; Credit: University of Florida athletic association
It's been five years since Florida Gators defensive lineman Zachary Carter last laced up his cleats to play football in Tampa (Fla). A hometown hero of sorts, Carter has waited for an opportunity to play in front of his hometown for years, and will finally get his opportunity against the South Florida Bulls this weekend.
“Man, I've been waiting for this game, honestly, ‘cause I haven't played a game back home in like five years," Carter told reporters via Zoom on Tuesday. "So I'm excited to get out there, front of the home crowd, you know. Got a lot of people trying to come support me so I'm just excited to get out there.”
Carter, a redshirt senior this year, played for the Hillsborough Terriers in high school, becoming Tampa Bay Times’ Blue Chips Player of the Year for the 2016 season.
Now, he will have an opportunity to play in front of plenty of his family and friends during a sold-out crowd in Tampa on Saturday, something that will undoubtedly be special for the star defensive lineman. As such, Carter will be requesting quite a few tickets for the contest.
“Teammates think I’m crazy asking for so many tickets," said Carter. "My Mom sent me a list of 30, so I’ll tell you that off the bat. That’s not including the people that asked me. So if I can get 40, I’ll take it.”
It would be quite a show for all of his friends and family as Carter looks to be better than ever this season, making the case to becoming one of the best defenders in the SEC. Carter was named a co-SEC Defensive Player of the Week this week for his three-sack performance on Saturday against Florida Atlantic.
Last season, Carter felt as if he left too much out on the field, whether it be sacks or other plays he could have made. While it was a complicated affair for the entirety of college football, and Carter split time at multiple positions, he still felt he needed to perform better, something he worked on this offseason.
"Working on my explosion, you know, changing my eating habits a little bit so I can get leaner and faster, stronger, things like that," Carter said of what he changed over the offseason to work on himself.
For Carter and some of his fellow teammates, working out doesn't just involve strength training and running. Working individually and with others in pass rush drills allow them to get better, something the team mostly does for around 15 repetitions with the 1s vs. the 1s during practice.
"We’re doing one on one pass rush, you know, we’re doing about 10-15 reps a day just about every day just to get those repetitions in."
Carter's performance last Saturday will ultimately become something to build off of, he said, wanting to continue to make strides as the season moves forward.
"I can’t get complacent, I can’t get satisfied with that performance. I came back for a reason so I got to continue to build off of that, and you know I'm on a mission, so I got to complete it.”
Saturday against the Bulls will be yet another opportunity for Carter to do just that, becoming one of the most dominant defensive linemen in the country.
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