Update: Carter verbally committed to Florida on June 24.
TAMPA – Hillsborough defensive end Zachary Carter is one of the most sought after prospects in the Tampa Bay area simply because he plays like a full-grown man. At 6’5″, 260 lbs., the rising senior has over 40 offers on his plate including all but two teams out of the NCAA’s top conference, the SEC.
Playing nose tackle as a sophomore, Carter says halfway through that season he realized what he was capable of. He weighed 210 lbs. in 2014 before bulking up to his current weight and ideally he wants to get to 275 lbs. to be stronger for the collegiate level.
Among the 40 plus offers, Carter says the four that stand out to him are Florida, Clemson, Ole Miss and Tennessee. He’s visited with LSU, Florida, Auburn, Clemson, Mississippi State and Ole Miss already. Carter’s latest offer came from Michigan State earlier this month.
Ohio State, Michigan, Maryland and Louisville are just four more offers that are equally impressive. It seems though as if Carter is destined for the SEC with Arkansas and Alabama the only two schools from the 13 team conference that haven’t offered.
Carter calls it a humbling experience to earn so many offers from these SEC programs.
“I always dreamed about playing for a lot of these schools that I watched on television growing up,” Carter said. “I’m blessed to be in this position and it makes me work harder.”
The University of Florida is a school that he’s visited quite a bit already. It makes sense that the Gators are one of his favorite offers at this point in the process.
“I always feel comfortable because I know what they expect. Every time I go I feel like I belong so I always enjoy myself when I go there.”
Last season marked Carter’s first year at defensive end and boy did he show up. He totaled 76 tackles (10 for a loss), 13 quarterback pressures, 5.5 sacks and three pass breakups. He averaged just over seven tackles a game.
“I played in the middle my sophomore year. It was a big transition. It took me awhile to get used to the position, but I think I helped the team at defensive end because I got better as the season went along.”
He certainly did. With just a half-a-sack through the first four weeks, Carter exploded in a 28-8 win over Spoto with a season-high 13 tackles and 1.5 sacks. He had 39 tackles and 3.5 sacks in the final five games of the season.
At defensive end, Carter loves being able to be mobile.
“I get to rush the quarterback off the edge and I really developed skills there. Also, stopping the run from the edge is a big thing for me.”
Hillsborough went 4-6 and missed out on the 6A playoffs, but the defense was stellar allowing an average of only 13.8 points per game. It should be an area of strength once again for the Terriers.
“We have a lot of tools on defense. I feel like we are always stacked on defense. I don’t see that changing anytime soon. We’ve developed a culture at being the best and we are sticking with it.”
Carter likes playing for longtime head coach Earl Garcia. Garcia is entering his 24th season at Hillsborough. Under Garcia’s command, the Terriers have made 19 region appearances highlighted by finishing as the state runner-up in 1996. 2015 marked the first time in his tenure that Hillsborough failed to make the playoffs.
“He’s hard on us and pushes us. But I know at the end of the day it is in his best interest. I think he prepares us for the next level. That’s why I’m not scared for the next level.”
Starting his football career at age 7, Carter lined up at middle linebacker and says he was always one of the bigger kids growing up. His older brother Frank Carter is someone Zachary calls a true role model. Frank graduated from Hillsborough in 2014 and currently is an offensive lineman at Jackson State.
“My brother is my biggest role model. We’re about two years apart. I just always have looked up to him because he’s the older brother and I try to follow in his footsteps. He pushes me and encourages me.”
Carter doubles as a power forward on the Terriers basketball team alongside football teammate, cornerback Ken Montgomery. He averaged 11.2 points and nine rebounds per game last season.
He says his biggest strengths in his football game are his get off, awareness and agility. Carter wants to continue to perfect his rush moves and become stronger at the point of attack.
Whenever Carter steps onto the field he knows he’s not just competing with people in the area but across the nation which makes him work even harder to be on top of the food chain.
As for his love of the game, he had this to say about that.
“I love being around a group of guys we are pushing each other and bond together. To be able to have that experience it teaches you a lot for off the field to. I stay around it and keeps me out of trouble.”
Carter’s ultimate goal with the game of football is to be successful and make his parents proud. He started playing because he truly loved the game starting at a young age.
With his pick of basically every top program in the nation, Carter is destined for big things at the next level. It’s scary to think how much better he can become in his second full season playing defensive end.
The Terriers defense is going to be one of the best in the county. It should be fun to watch Carter and this group come out hungry each and every week. Don’t forget the name Zachary Carter anytime soon, he’s well on his way.
Favorite players to watch – Houston Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller
Playlist before games – Lil Wayne “Mr. Carter”
Favorite movies – Stomp The Yard
Favorite TV shows – SportsCenter
Fun fact about you that nobody knows – “I like to sing. I sing in a choir at my church (First Missionary Baptist Church Highland Pines).
Nickname from teammates of friends – “Big Zach”
— HHS FOOTBALL (@HHS_Terriers) May 16, 2016
Game film: Carter’s Hudl tape.
Photo credit: Tampa Bay Times
Jake Perper is the founder of Prep Sports Scouting. Make sure to follow along for all the updates on Twitter: @JakePerper.
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