Michigan tight end Zach Gentry talks about the transition from quarterback to tight end. Angelique S. Chengelis, Detroit News
Ann Arbor — Although Zach Gentry has grown to enjoy playing tight end at Michigan, there are things he misses about being a quarterback.
The 6-foot-7 Gentry, a redshirt sophomore, was a three-year starting quarterback in high school in Albuquerque and had committed to play the position at Texas before signing with the Wolverines to play for coach Jim Harbaugh.
“It’s such a unique position, it really is,” Gentry said of quarterback. “You’re the lead-by-example guy, you’re the vocal leader, you’re in charge of everything. I guess I just kind of miss that. I miss holding the reins. People can do that in all kinds of positions, but that’s definitely the big one.”
He began practicing at tight end during bowl practices in Orlando in 2015, then Harbaugh made the position switch official the next February. His body type and athleticism and the fact he is such an enormous target made moving Gentry to tight end a no-brainer for the coaching staff.
“It was one of those things, I wasn’t expecting it, but at the same time, I kind of rolled with it,” Gentry said last Friday after practice. “I trusted (Harbaugh) knew what was best. He sat down and explained to me what was going on. They said they needed some athleticism at other spots, and I trusted him. I think it’s paid off a lot for me.”
Harbaugh’s success rate developing tight ends was pointed out to Gentry last week.
“That was definitely one of those things that attracted me more,” he said.
Not surprisingly, it took Gentry time to get accustomed to his new position.
“It takes a while, especially moving from quarterback to something else is a different transition in most things, because it’s so different from any other position,” he said. “It took me quite a while to get used to, but once I got the ball rolling and I was used to it, it starts to become second nature. It’s fine now.”
With Jake Butt, the Mackey Award winner last season and two-time Big Ten Tight End of the Year now in the NFL, competition at tight end is wide open at Michigan.
“Zach Gentry is just fighting like a madman and doing some really good things,” Harbaugh said recently.
During the spring game at Michigan Stadium last April, Gentry caught a 55-yard pass from Brandon Peters for the game’s first score.
“It definitely helped my confidence a lot,” Gentry said. “Finally getting in the end zone in the Big House, whether it’s a live game or not, it’s definitely a confidence booster. It’s something that carried through, made me work extra hard during summer workouts. It definitely gave me a little edge and a little motivation.”
He and the rest of the tight ends are now being coached by Greg Frey, who also coaches the tackles. Jay Harbaugh, the tight ends coach the last two years, is now working with the running backs. Gentry said Frey has added more “tips and tricks” in terms of run-blocking and pass-protection.
Butt was the all-around leader of the position group. He was vocal, he’d talk to the group of he thought things weren’t going the way they should. With him gone, the group has changed in multiple ways.
“This year, it’s really an interesting dynamic because we’ve got a lot of guys that are vocal,” Gentry said. “We’re a really tight-knit group, too. That’s something I’m proud to say just because a lot of people want competition to be butting heads, but we’re all really close. We’re all pretty vocal with each other. I think we push each other to get better every day.”
He has taken on a leadership role, as well.
“There’s a lot of young guys on the team,” he said. “When that happens, a lot more guys have to be vocal. It’s one of the interesting dynamics of this team as opposed to the last couple years, I think, is just as a whole, the whole team is a lot more vocal. There’s a lot more leadership going on, even from the younger guys,.The younger guys have a lot of experience on this team, too. It’s helped out.”