When redshirt junior tight end Zach Gentry showed up on campus in 2015 it was as a quarterback. He’s extremely tall, 6-foot-8, but he says he was only 230 pounds his freshman year. Gentry was basically a small giraffe trying to fit under center.
Fast forward three years, and Gentry has undergone quite the transition, entering the season as the team’s No. 1 primarily pass-catching tight end.
“I think about it all the time (the decision to move to tight end),” Gentry said during media availability on Tuesday. “I’m very lucky that I stuck it out and trusted what was going on here. I think about it pretty much every day.”
It wasn’t exactly a slam dunk transition. Gentry had never imagined playing anything other than quarterback at Michigan, and it seemed like there was some anger at the news of the position switch in Gentry’s hometown of Albuquerque. Gentry’s father, Tom, was a high school star at QB.
“I think my family was always on board for whatever, as long as I was happy,” Gentry said. “And if i thought it was a good situation, they were happy. The Gentry family’s happy for sure. It was kind of a crazy path, a lot of ups and downs. It was definitely a challenge. When you think about getting here (Michigan) you think it’s going to be perfect, and you’re going to get used to everything, and you’re going to start, and you’re going to play. It very rarely happens like that, especially when you’re coming in as a freshman. There was an adjustment period for sure”
That transition was eased by how much being a former quarterback helped him at the new spot. He thinks it improved his route-running and ability to read the defense.
“I feel like I’m a tight end now,” Gentry said. “I just have some quarterback experience,”
After 17 catches for 303 yards and two touchdowns with a 17.8-yard average in 2017, Gentry is being compared by some to legendary Wolverine tight end Jake Butt. For the sake of reference, Butt had 51 receptions for 651 yards and three scores in his junior year. Michigan coaches should be happy with even just seventy-five percent of that production this year.
“Zach Gentry has had one heck of a camp,” senior defensive end Chase Winovich said. “Coach Mattison always jokes with us and says, ‘Wow Zach Gentry, All-American here!” because some of the stuff he was able to do this year it kind of popped up out of nowhere. I’m excited for him. I love Zach, and I think he deserves to have a great season. It’s something different because he’s so tall.”
Gentry now seems perfectly at home getting in a three-point stance on the end of the offensive line, but he does miss some aspects about being QB.
“There are certain things I miss about it,” Gentry said. “It’s so different from any other position in sports. I still think it’s the most challenging position mentally, physically, blood pressure. It’s the only position I really played growing up, so I just kind of miss the feel of being under center and making the play calls.”
There’s no doubt Gentry causes match-up problems for opposing secondaries. He shared what he’s seen of Notre Dame’s defense on film so far this week:
“They run well laterally,” Gentry said. “They’re athletic. Their d-ends and linebackers always seem to be around the ball. They’re gonna attack the ball with speed.”
Gentry’s attack begins in South Bend on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.