Michigan picked up the commitment of three-star guard Zach Carpenter last week, adding to their already impressive offensive line haul.
The Wolverines were the leaders for Carpenter after consecutive weekend visits in April, but backed off after being unsure how many linemen they would take. In the meantime, Carpenter garnered nine Crystal Balls to Clemson. But, to the surprise of everyone, Carpenter tweeted out a simple one-word message announcing his commitment to Michigan last Wednesday.
Carpenter is emblematic of the new style of offensive linemen Michigan is targeting under new line coach Ed Warinner. He is a tough, mean, road grader who dominates defenders on the inside. Carpenter is also extremely strong, benching 430 pounds. Defenders literally bounce off of him.
The 6-5, 310 pounder plays for Archbishop Moeller, a perennial powerhouse in Cincinnati. He plays in a tough league, going up against top competition week in and week out.
Check out his junior highlights HERE.
Let’s breakdown what Michigan is getting here with their newest commitment.
This is a broad category, but I’m not sure how else to put it... Carpenter’s combination of strength, tenacity and technique make him a mauler in the interior. He continually drives defenders off the ball, smothering them and creating huge holes for his running backs.
Carpenter fires off the snap low, getting under the defensive lineman’s pads, gaining leverage to drive him straight to the ground. This creates a massive space for the running back to burst through.
In this next play, Carpenter easily escorts a defensive end out of the play, showing good hand placement and footwork when he reaches his man. After he makes contact, he keeps his feet moving and easily pancakes the guy.
Carpenter is asked to shuffle down the line and attack opponents who are shaded outside of him a couple of times in his film. He shows good quickness and footwork to be able to seal these linemen who are in a tough position in relation to him.
In the play above, Carpenter must reach the guy who is shaded on his inside shoulder. Carpenter gets off the ball quickly and cuts the guy off with his shoulder. Even from this less than ideal position of leverage, he is able to drive the defender back and takes him to the ground. This combination of quickness and strength is extremely enticing.
In this next play, Carpenter is asked to do something similar, but his man is shaded to his outside shoulder now.
On this play, Carpenter doesn’t quite get around his man enough, like in the first example. His first bucket step goes back and inside, rather than to the outside to gain depth and position. Nevertheless, Carpenter is able to cut him off and pancake the defender yet again.
The strength displayed while quickly going down the line with his feet moving is impressive and is also helpful in the next section we’ll cover.
Getting to the second level
With his quickness, Carpenter is adept at moving to the second level and taking on linebackers. Blocking in space can be difficult for someone Carpenter’s size, but he displays excellent footwork and technique to neutralize defenders.
In the play above, Carpenter takes a great angle to the linebacker, cutting him off from the designed hole and making it easy to turn him inside. He shows good hand placement, getting one on the defender’s inside shoulder, allowing Carpenter to seal him even easier. Finally, Carpenter sticks with him, driving him five yards outside and eventually pancaking him, which is partially cut off in the gif.
Here’s a similar play, with Carpenter attacking the second level and getting a pancake.
While I don’t love Carpenter’s hands here (placement that far outside is asking for a holding call), he does win the battle. Both him and the linebacker are running right at each other, and Carpenter’s strength gives him the advantage. He does stop his feet on contact, but after he absorbs the initial blow, he easily pushes the defender back and gets him on the ground quickly.
These plays to the second level put all of Carpenter’s strengths together. His strength, quickness and mean streak are all on display when he goes hunting for a linebacker.
There is no question that Carpenter is a great athlete, I’ve talked extensively about his footwork and quickness. However, I believe that he is playing a little heavy and could stand to shed some weight.
At 6-5, Carpenter has the frame to carry his 310 pounds, but getting down to 300 or even slightly under could make him truly elite and a nightmare while pulling or getting outside on screens.
There’s no question new strength coach Ben Herbert will love Carpenter, who is already putting up eye-popping numbers in the weight room. But I expect him to target Carpenter as someone he pushes to trim down. As long as he can keep that strength and toughness at a slightly lower weight, this will help him see the field soon.
There is also a lack of pass blocking on his tape. I counted two passing plays (not including screens) that were included. One is the one I showed at the top, of the guy bouncing off of him.
Needless to say, Carpenter has some work to do in refining his pass protection. Most linemen at this stage are much more advanced in the run game at this stage, however, and give a red-shirt year to develop his skills will be crucial in giving him a shot to replace Ben Bredeson or Michael Onwenu at the guard position in 2020.
Zach Carpenter could be the face of the new offensive line direction under Ed Warinner. He, along with the likes of Nolan Rumler, Karsen Barnhart and Jack Stewart will be leading the charge of hard-nosed maulers dominating the inside of the trenches for years to come.