Born in Camarillo, California, in 2001, Zach's mother, Seda, was a French immigrant to the United States. Aside from French, she also has Cambodian and Chinese roots. Charbonnet did not play football until seventh grade but fell in love with the game immediately. His focus prior was on basketball and baseball, and his parents were cautious about the violent nature of the sport. At Oaks Christian High School, Charbonnet racked up impressive statistics despite having a humble reputation.
Totaling 4,741 rushing yards and 62 total touchdowns earned him a four-star rating by 247Sports. Before his senior season, the powerful runner committed to the University of Michigan. Charbonnet's career in Ann Arbor got off to a rocky start as he underwent knee surgery in the spring of 2019. Despite this, he won the starting job for week one and had an impressive first-year campaign, setting the record for touchdowns by a freshman at eleven, adding a further 726 rushing yards to his tally. It would all change as the global pandemic struck, and Charbonnet had a tough season, carrying the ball a mere 19 times. He decided to enter the transfer portal and joined the UCLA Bruins in late January 2021. In Chip Kelly's offense, the 2020 Academic-All Big 10 honoree seems to have regained his footing, as he racked up 272 yards on just 19 touches in the first two games against Hawaii and LSU.
Standing an estimated 6010 and 220 lbs, Charbonnet fits the size requirements of a power back, and this is how he plays. Tacklers that come in high just bounce off of his muscular upper body. He runs hard and lowers the shoulder, making him tough to tackle. An active off-hand and a violent stiff arm are nightmares for defenders in the open. Charbonnet possesses very good leg drive to drive piles and pick up extra yards. He shows good vision on counter runs, taking advantage of the added time and misdirection to help him find holes at the backside of the concept. He reads leverage on the perimeter on lateral runs and takes advantage if one of his blockers seals the edge. The willingness to get outside gets the better of him when he bounces runs prematurely. Charbonnet is an upright runner through the hole and can have clunky-looking ball handling when switching hands. He occasionally turns his body instead of barreling through arm tackles.
Athletically, Charbonnet leaves a bit to be desired as his straight-line speed and burst are below average, causing him to get run down by linebackers. His size shows solid cutting ability, maintaining balance and a wide base but often needing multiple steps to perform the task. Coming out of cuts, his first step is lacking, failing to explode into space. Charbonnet is not elusive and will not make defenders miss with agility.
He is better as a blocker on passing downs, again displaying his wide base and using his strength and size to absorb opponents. His limited movement skills show up again when he's running routes, as Charbonnet gets to his spots, showing little attention to detail. Off-target passes can lead to drops with him not alert as a check down.
Showing the good and bad in Charbonnet's game, he finds a big hole but is run down in the open field:
Breaking multiple poor tackling attempts by Hawaii, Charbonnet takes it to the house:
Charbonnet recognizes his tight end sealed the edge and keeps working laterally for the touchdown:
Finding another big hole, he uses his off-hand to break tackles:
Instead of barreling through this arm tackle, Charbonnet turns his body, costing him valuable momentum:
Scouting Lenz Projection: Charbonnet projects as a power back who can handle carries at the goal line and in short-yardage situations. His lack of transcendent athletic traits prevent him from becoming a primary back, and he will have to find a role on third down by being a blocker.
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