Q&A - Zach Banner

Since he had just finished up at the Washington Rising Stars camp, we took some time out to talk with Zach Banner, a 6-foot-9, 300-pound offensive lineman from Lakes High School in Lakewood, Wash. He talked about the camp, going up against Austin Seferian-Jenkins, basketball and what he needs to do to become one of the dominant linemen for the class of 2012.

Update us on what's going on with basketball: I'm with Seattle Rotary, and our next tournament for sure is in July in (Las) Vegas. We're going to be going from Vegas to Phoenix. We're going to be on the road, and a lot of college coaches know about that.

Word is, you got an offer from Colorado?: I do have an offer from Colorado, and I've gotten calls for basketball from Georgia Tech, Texas and LSU.

What's the difference in your mind when you get a basketball offer, as opposed to a football offer?: Really it's just the school wanting me to play another sport. Usually the football coaches have already talked to me from those schools. But I don't know if it's to play double sports. So far only Cal-Berkeley and the University of Washington have shown interest in both sports as far as agreeing to let me play both sports. I don't know about Texas, Georgia Tech or LSU. But those two schools - U-Dub and Cal - are the only ones saying hey, you get to play both sports.

When we've talked to Jake Locker in the past about baseball, he said that when he looks in the mirror, he sees a football player. When you look at yourself in the mirror, do you see a football player or a basketball player?: Right now I don't have a mirror. And that's the truth. I don't see what I'm going to be in two years when I go to college, and that's the truth. In Jake's situation, he probably saw himself being a football player and having a future in football, but for me - I don't know which one is a better future for me. People say it's football automatically because of my size; some people say it's basketball automatically because of my size and also because I'm good at it. In football, people say that when I get my steps down, I'll be dominant.

I want to get some scouting reports on guys. Tell me about Tony Wroten, Jr. Give me a scouting report on Tony: Tony, in basketball, he's explosive. He wants to win, and just the fact that he's a good leader…he does what he talks about…he says hey, give me the ball, I'm going to score - and he goes out and does it…he says hey, look for the kick-out, because I'm going to kick it out to you once I get you open, and he does it. It's just stuff like that, because when he says he's going to do something, he does it. And he's good like that. His head on his shoulders is good, and he's still one of us kids. He's a good dude, and he's one of my good friends. He's cool with me and I'm pretty sure he's going to have a good college career and in the pros.

As a basketball player, how about Austin Seferian-Jenkins? I've seen you've bang against him on the basketball court and I know you like playing against Austin: It was definitely a fun experience playing against Austin. He's got good footwork and that translates over to football. In basketball he's big and it's hard to get by him. I know that from experience. Quite frankly, he's another explosive player. Those player right there - especially him - he goes up strong. And that's hard to block. When you play against somebody your own size and body type too and strong, it's fun.

We saw at the (Rising Stars) camp he lined up at defensive end going up against you: He definitely got by me a couple of times. That dude, I'm telling you - explosiveness, that's a big word for him. Because when he got off that ball, he was low and he was looking for the quarterback…quite frankly, at defensive end, if his coaches let him play defense, I could see him making the all-area team or even get recruited as a defensive end.

When he beat you, did he let you know about it?: No, definitely not. Me and Austin are good friends. At the end he said sorry, but I said it's good competition and it makes me better. He said sorry for exposing me and beating me in front of everybody, but I was like, it really doesn't matter because we all lose sometimes. He was making me better, because no one out there was making me better like he was. If you go against somebody so good…that's good competition and good reps. When you go against somebody the same or lower, you're going to dominate them after you're done practicing with them.

As big as you are, it's always tougher to bend at the knees. It's harder for you because of your size: Coach (Dan) Cozzetto at U-Dub said that what's holding me back from reaching my potential is that my hips are locked. What he means by that is that I'm bending up top instead of at the knees. He understood that because I've worked on my footwork and my upper body, but I've never worked on my hips. The weight room is not what's going to get me there - it's me taking reps, it's doing the drills and staying low in everything I do. He gave me some drills to work on, and he said that once you get those hips unlocked, that's when I'll start getting better in everything else. That's when I'll be able to get lower, that's when I'll be able to move faster laterally…quite frankly that's all I need right there. Coach Cozzetto really taught me a lot last week, and I couldn't have gone anywhere else to get anything better.

Is that going to be a hard thing to do?: It takes a lot of hard work. In basketball, coaches want you to be tall, but they also want you to have your butt down. In football, you have to break down even lower because you have to get leverage on the little 6-2, 6-3 defensive ends. When you see people like that, you have to get down to their level, but you also have to have leverage, and that's when you have to get your butt down. That takes time and a lot of effort…it's going to take a couple of months to get my hips more flexible, but I'm going to spend my whole summer on it, on my lateral movement and getting stronger and everything else. If I do that, I'll be a more complete player by the time I go to college, but even then I haven't reached my full potential. I'm always going to have something I need to get better at.

In some ways it's almost easier to go up against a guy like Austin than the smaller guy.: You're exactly right. When I was going up against Austin, I was thinking hey, this is going to be easier because I don't have to get as low. But then again, I had to worry about my foot speed, and that also is about your hips. When you are moving laterally in a squat - when you side-shuffle - that's what I was getting beat on. He was out-running me, basically.

I don't want to dwell on it, but when the news came out about your connection with Lincoln Kennedy, what was the reaction? How much of it came back to you?: Nobody knew the story. Everybody wanted to know - is this kid really Lincoln's son? Is this kid really a national recruit as a freshman? Everybody was holding back because they didn't really want to get on the touchy subjects. After the story, everybody realized that I am Lincoln's son - that part was put out there, so no one really asks about that anymore. All they had to do was read the article and know that hey, he really is getting recruited at a young age and he is a hard worker and does stuff off the field that makes him a better player and person. That story put me out there. College coaches really now never ask about anything but how my workouts are going or if I'm still running on the track. Everybody asks me if I'm serious doing those (sprint) workouts.

When I ran that 5.2 (40) the other day, people went wow, those workouts are really working. At the national underclass combine when I was an eighth grader, I ran a 7.6. I went from that to a 5.2 in a matter of a year-and-a-half.

When we saw you out at the camp, we saw you working hard, but we also saw you having a lot of fun too: Coach Cozzetto said something about that, too. He said that the thing he liked about me was that the hard work I've put in helps me make it through these camps. He looked around and there were linemen that wished they weren't there. They were breathing heavy, they were out of shape. (Cozzetto) said that I never stopped running. I ran from drill to drill. Even coach Sark (Steve Sarkisian) said that - he congratulated me on that. He said that everything I'm doing is helping me get through these things. And when you get through these things, that's what makes you a better player.

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