Florida’s DE Zachary Carter not disappointed, not satisfied with defensive performance

·3 min read

After sporting one of the SEC’s weakest defenses during the 2020 season, a lot of eyes were on defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s unit in the season opener against Florida Atlantic. And largely, the group played quite well. Some garbage time scoring (including a touchdown in the fourth quarter that may have affected those with, shall we say, vested interests) made FAU’s offensive performance look better than it actually was.

The Owls finished with 353 yards of offense, but when you actually watch the tape, they weren’t able to do much at all when it mattered. And the reason for that is, above all else, the pass rush.

The Gators brought down Florida Atlantic quarterback N’Kosi Perry six times, and three of those came from redshirt senior defensive end Zachary Carter. A year ago, Carter led the defense with five sacks. He’s already more than halfway to beating that after just one outing.

“I have to give credit to my backend,” Carter said after the game. “They did a great job covering the line and helping me get back there. I want to give credit to my guys inside for giving me that push. It was just one of those games and I was feeling it tonight. I’m excited for this year. I’m planning on having a big year.”

The play of the interior defensive linemen was certainly an important story to watch heading into the game. UF had severe deficiencies there heading into the offseason, and it added a pair of defensive tackles in Daquan Newkirk and Antonio Valentino who both have Power Five experience.

Carter said their addition has been invaluable.

“Those guys are doing great on and off the field, even with little things like leadership,” he said. “Just having those older guys around helping me with this young group. We have three seniors, but we still have a pretty young group. So, I think they’ve done a great job. You’ve seen tonight a sneak peek of what they can do. I’m looking forward to them balling out all season.”

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Overall, however, Carter sees some things the defensive unit could clean up. The Gators didn’t exactly struggle against the run, but they did allow Johnny Ford to break off a 20-yard run (though FAU as a team was held under 100 yards on the ground). The secondary also allowed Owls receivers to get open, but the pressure on Perry kept them from capitalizing.

“I would say just filling blocks better and not back on the line of scrimmage to stop some of those runs from happening,” he said. “I mean, they didn’t bust a lot of long runs but we’re trying to be the best defense in the SEC, and if we want to do that, we have to correct all the little things. It starts up front. We need to correct some things in the backend, but that’s about it.”

Florida’s defense gave up 428 yards per game last year, and while the FAU offense found some success, it was an overall defensive performance that showed signs of improving. UF fans are likely pleased with the way the unit played.

But Carter isn’t.

“I’m not disappointed, but I am just not satisfied because I know what this group is capable of,” he said. “We had a solid performance, but I just know we can take it to another level. We’ve got to continue to keep improving on tonight.”

Considering the team travels to Raymond James Stadium next week to take on a USF squad that was blanked in its season opener against NC State, the defense has another great opportunity to deliver a strong performance.

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