It’s the offensive line coaches who are turning green over Zach Banner. He’s a 6-9, 305-lb. offensive tackle and basketball center from Lakes High School in Lakewood Washington. He has three kazillion offers, including 13 to play both football and basketball, as he wants to be among the first to pull off that double at a major college since Terry Baker in the 1960s (a few players have done it since, including Florida State Heisman trophy winner Charlie Ward and Washington Husky two-sport star Nate Robinson, but it’s rare at the division one level.)
Oh yeah, he’s also a 3.6 student and President of his junior class. Popular, out-going and funny, with an outsized and charismatic personality to match what would otherwise be fearsome bulk, Banner is the biological child of former Husky All-American Lincoln Kennedy, who went on to play seven years in the NFL and made two Pro Bowls. His real parents, Ron and Vanessa Banner, are Washington State graduates. Speculation abounds, but speculation is pointless.
Banner is a wonder with unlimited potential. As a roundball star his team won a state championship this March, and he had 15 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots in the title game against Bellvue. Over 30 programs in the country have offered a scholarship in football, including Michigan, Notre Dame. Washington, Oregon. Alabama, LSU. Florida State, Oklahoma and USC, which comprise his final nine according to most reports. And there are a lot of reports.
What’s most exceptional about Zach is his focus, family foundation, and outstanding work ethic. His stated goal is to be an All-American in both sports, but it’s not an idle whim. He works at his game, getting up with a teammate at 5:30 in the morning to lift weights so he can practice shooting after school. In track he ran with the sprinters to improve his speed. He told Chris Fetters of Scout.com. “I work out with my trainer Brent at the Puyallup YMCA everyday on speed and agility, getting my hips explosive, and my core. Then after a little rest I head out to Competitive Edge and get a work out in there which lasts between 2 and 3 hours. That I am doing now with Joshua Garnett and Walker Williams and it has been great.” Fetters has much more on Zach’s family structure and character, “Zach Banner – A Profile in Character. Banner identified his goals in middle school and with the guidance of his father Ron, he’s been working in a very directed way ever since.
He told Sam Webb of the Detroit News, “I just love the game,” he said. “Anybody in front of me, I just want to knock on the ground. That’s my passion for the game. The second thing is that I just want to win. Every time we step on the court with me being the leader, I want to push my dudes. I care about team. It’s ‘Family Over Everything’ — ‘FOE.’ That’s my motto.”
Webb noted that a family atmosphere is crucial to Banner in selecting a college; he wouldn’t be comfortable at a school without it. Michigan with new coach Brady Hoke’s commitment to offensive line play and the run game, plus the school’s impressive tradition, is an early favorite, but Zach won’t be easily swayed; he’s stated repeatedly he intends to take his time with his decision and announce on signing day at his high school: again, the commitment to family and the fierce loyalty.
As a prospect on the field, Banner’s still developing. He’s strong and mobile. often getting out to the second level on plays. He blocks to the whistle, frequently just simply dominating opponents with his size. As a big man, though, it’s tough to get in a proper three-point stance and fire out. He needs to improve his coordination and first step. But go back to the fierce training regimen and the work ethic: there simply isn’t any doubt that Zach will get there. Here are some junior highlights:
Nick Leach of the Ringer website has a scouting breakdown on Banner, and he lists Zach’s positives as size, speed, athleticism and intelligence, while the players question marks or challenges are lateral speed and hip/flex explosion. He rates him as the #6 overall prospect in the nation and the #1 left tackle.