The Wolverine

November 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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20 THE WOLVERINE NOVEMBER 2018 Still, he spent his last three years at Eldorado standing tall in the pocket and delivering strikes. "There was a game my senior year when we were down 21-3 at half," Gentry remembered. "We came back and won in double overtime, 56-55. I think I had maybe four touchdowns passing and two or three rushing." Now, the grandson of one of the winningest prep coaches in New Mexico High School history drew a different, and decidedly more vio- lent, assignment. He saw the field for seven games as a redshirt freshman in 2016, catch- ing precisely zero passes and finding his way at the new spot. "The first year was a rough, kind of confusing year, looking back on it," Gentry admitted. "I was happy to be out here, but it definitely wasn't what I expected. "Once you get over that hump, kind of get the ball rolling and get a little more confident, everything was a lot better." BLOCKING OUT ADVERSITY His biggest hurdle isn't hard to guess, coming from quarterback. Fill- ing the hole and tackling in grade school isn't taking on a 240-pound mobile linebacker with malicious in- tent. The toughest part of the transition? "Definitely, just blocking — an overall knowledge and understand- ing of blocking," he said. "It's not easy to pick up, especially being a quarterback. It takes a long time. "That's definitely the thing that took the longest to learn and what I'm most proud of." "He's really improved a lot in the passing game, the run game," junior tight end Sean McKeon noted. "He's gotten a lot better at run blocking, which not many people notice, be- cause he's catching all these passes too." Jon Jansen notices. The former Michigan All-American knows a lit- tle something about blocking and po- sition switches. He came to Michigan as a tight end in 1994, but soon made the move to offensive tackle, where he'd eventually play 11 seasons in the NFL. A careful observer of all things Michigan football, Jansen scrutinized Gentry's play through 2017 — when he finished second on the team in receiving yardage (303) — and into this season. Jansen detailed Gentry's blocking gains. "When I look at Zach, there are a few different things," Jansen said. "The pass catching, especially as a former quarterback, is the easiest transition for him. "But then you go from a position where there is no contact, and you want to minimize contact, to one up front where you have to be part of the running game, and it's tough." Jansen singled out senior tail- back Karan Higdon's two long runs against Nebraska as highlight mo- ments for Gentry that few noticed. "Same play," Jansen noted. "He went to the left, towards Zach as the tight end. Zach did a great job of set- ting up that outside linebacker, then going inside and cracking on an in- side linebacker. There's a rhythm to that. "When you first get that job re- sponsibility, the first thing you want to do is take off for that inside line- backer right away. As you soon real- ize, you have to set up that outside linebacker, so [junior guard] Ben Bredeson can get behind you, come right off your butt and kick that guy out. "He did a great job of setting that guy up, being patient and then com- ing out. When you do that, it gives you a better angle on the linebacker. Those are just the nuances. When they draw it up in the meeting room, you're thinking to yourself, 'I've got Coming out of high school, Gentry was ranked by as a four-star recruit and the No. 4 pro-style quarterback and No. 105 overall prospect nationally, but head coach Jim Harbaugh convinced him to switch to tight end — a move now paying big dividends. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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