Zach Gentry’s 55-yard touchdown in Michigan’s spring game was the type of result many would expect from the redshirt sophomore. How Gentry reached the end zone, though, is what defies expectations.
Gentry was once a highly-touted quarterback prospect, ranked among the nation’s best by nearly every prognosticator. The 6-foot-7, 245 pounder practically oozed potential: he had the arm strength to excel and athleticism that didn’t confine him to the pocket.
The one knock on Gentry, who attended high school in New Mexico — typically a state light on Division I football talent — was that he was raw and would require some time to develop.
That’s certainly held true. It’s just that Gentry hasn’t spent the last couple of years developing at quarterback — he’s had to do so at a different position.
Last spring, Gentry was shuffled out of the quarterback competition and converted into a tight end. The ‘why’ is apparent: he’s tall, fast and can catch the ball. That didn’t make the move any less unexpected, yet Gentry took it in stride.
“I trust Coach Harbaugh because he knows what’s best for us,” Gentry said. “He said they needed some athleticism in other spots, and he liked my size and body type. It’s paid off a lot for me so far.
“Plus, I was well aware of his success with tight ends, and that was one of the things that attracted me there.”
Gentry said playing basketball while growing up helped him with the transition. But the adjustment period was still a lengthy one, as Gentry explained, because quarterback is “so different from any other position.”
Instead of learning the intricacies of his old position, Gentry has had to learn everything from scratch at his new one: how to line up, how to run routes and how to block.
“It took me quite a while to get used to,” Gentry said, “but once I got the ball rolling and I was used to it, it starts to become second nature, so it’s fine now.”
No matter how long it’s taken him to adapt to the position, it’s apparent that Gentry possesses the same type of potential at tight end that he did at quarterback. His big play in the spring game is plenty of evidence — Gentry runs up the seam, catches the ball without letting it get into his body and makes a man miss before sprinting in for the touchdown.
“It definitely helped my confidence a lot,” Gentry said of the touchdown reception. “Finally getting in the endzone in the Big House, whether it’s a live game or not, is definitely a confidence booster and it’s something that carried me through, made me work extra hard during summer workouts, and it definitely gave me a little edge and little more motivation going through.”
He did admit that he still misses some aspect of his old position — especially the leadership required from the man under center. But Gentry appears to understand his quarterbacking days are over, and tight end has grown on him.
“I feel tremendously more comfortable,” Gentry said. “A whole year of growth is a long time, just definitely getting a lot more used to it, getting a lot more used to the playbook and playing with the guys around me, so I feel tremendously more comfortable, 100 percent.”
Special thanks to The Michigan Insider's Josh Henschke for providing The Michigan Daily with audio from an open interview session with Zach Gentry.