ORLANDO, Fla.— In a crowded field of quarterbacks all vying to replace fifth-year senior Jake Rudock under center when he graduates, one of the competitors might just end up as the Michigan football team’s next tight end instead.
Zach Gentry is one of the many Wolverines experimenting at different positions under coach Jim Harbaugh, and his 6-foot-6 frame makes him an appealing option at either position — perhaps at both.
Gentry said he has been bouncing around positions during bowl practices, playing quarterback, tight end and receiver on the scout team, as his future position remains up in the air. But there is hidden benefit to the uncertainty. Each of Gentry’s possible positions feed the others in some way, which has helped him grow at every position throughout the process.
“Having a background in quarterback helps out at pretty much any other position on the field because you have to be aware of what’s going on,” Gentry said. “Just knowing when to break routes and exactly where the quarterback is expecting you to be at any given time. And then as far as receiver stuff, working your footwork and speed, agility is definitely key in helping the quarterback side as well.”
Gentry was a four-star quarterback recruit out of New Mexico, a clear athletic talent with a big arm and long strides. He had never played any position but quarterback. With a coach who loves to try players everywhere on the field, though, his size and skill set made him an attractive option to try at tight end.
“It’s been a lot different, for sure,” Gentry said. “Makes practice a little more exciting for me, spices it up.”
When it comes to a permanent position in the future, Gentry isn’t entirely sure where his coaches will end up putting him. Michigan tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh has told him he’s doing well, but he would still like to compete for a spot at quarterback.
Gentry has even taken reps at wide receiver, where his size and speed create intriguing possibilities as well. Gentry said he runs a 4.5-second 40-yard dash, which would place him in line with other Football Bowl Subdivision receivers. And at 6-foot-6, his size would be above-average for a wideout.
In either case, he has a lot of catching up to do. He has leaned on fellow tight ends for help learning the basics, and has even done a little bit of blocking.
So while he would still like to throw touchdown passes, he may also be prepared to catch them — or even pave the way for them.
“It’s one of those things where I just want to get on the field,” Gentry said.