LIONS INSIDER

Camp Spotlight: Running back Zach Zenner

Posted Aug 9, 2017

Tim Twentyman tracks the performance of running back Zach Zenner during Day 9 of training camp practice.

ZACH ZENNER

Position: Running back

Ht/Wt: 5-11, 221

College: South Dakota State

Experience: 3rd season

Outlook: Zenner is the kind of running back coaches love to have on the roster. He can run the football, catch it out of the backfield, help out in the protection game, and play on all four core special teams units.

Zenner is trying to solidify his role as this team’s third running back behind Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick. He’s competing with second-year running back Dwayne Washington for a short-yardage and goal-line role as well.

Zenner was productive at the end of last season when given an opportunity to be this team's featured back. He finished second on the team with 334 yards (3.8 average) and four touchdowns. He also caught another 18 balls for 196 yards (10.9).

Simply put, Zenner is a really nice option to have as a third back on the roster.

Practice report: Zenner had two reps in one-on-one passing drills against the linebackers and safeties in Wednesday’s practice. The first rep resulted in an incomplete pass as linebacker Paul Worrilow had pretty sticky coverage on Zenner’s out route. The throw was a little too far in front of Zenner, and he couldn’t haul it in.

The second rep came against safety Glover Quin. Zenner made a nice move to get inside Quin and make a contested catch right at the goal line for a touchdown.

One thing that jumps out about Zenner when he runs the football in practice is his vision. In a team drill later on, Zenner took a handoff and headed left, but a wall of defenders came to meet him. He made a simple cut up the field to turn a loss into a short gain. It’s not flashy, but that’s Zenner in a nutshell. He gets positive yards, and keeps the offense out of bad situations.

Quotable: “I think towards the end of the year everybody realized what, essentially he’s been doing for a long time,” Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said of Zenner. “He came out of college, he churned up a bunch of yards in college, he came here for us and caught our eye rather quickly.

“We knew Zach could run the ball but obviously, I think he showed how effective he can be when you give him the ball enough times, a considerable amount of times, so we’re happy to have him. He’s so versatile as well. He’s very good in our kicking game and he’s one of those guys that we count on and depend on because he can do a little bit of everything. Pass protect, run the ball, you name it.”