The 2023 Senior Bowl will provide an opportunity for NFL draft prospects to prove themselves on the largest pre-draft stage. South Carolina defensive tackle Zacch Pickens plans on taking full advantage. Pickens recently spoke exclusively with the Senior Bowl and Draft Network to discuss his motivation for accepting his invitation to compete in Mobile, Alabama.
Pickens also talked about what he’s striving to prove to NFL general managers and scouts in attendance at the Senior Bowl, positional versatility, his pass-rush arsenal, and more. Let’s get to know Zacch Pickens a little better.
JM: Where were you when you found out about your Senior Bowl invite and what was your initial reaction like?
Zacch Pickens: I was at our facilities when I received the news. We were preparing to play Clemson that weekend. I was extremely excited. All of my teammates kept saying I definitely got invited, but I didn’t think I made it [to the Senior Bowl] until I officially received my invite (laughs). I was so happy when I got my invite.
JM: We’re so happy for you. What was your motivation for accepting the Senior Bowl’s offer?
Zacch Pickens: It’s time for me to go to work. I’m excited to compete against some of the best seniors in the nation. These guys are just like me. The Senior Bowl recognized me as one of the best seniors in the country. We’re going to have a great time in Mobile.
JM: You sure are. What are you looking to prove to NFL general managers, coaching staffs, and scouts in attendance in Mobile?
Zacch Pickens: I’m ready to show everybody that I’m willing to do whatever it takes to develop into a high-level football player. I’m a physical player first and foremost. I don’t mind cleaning up messes around the line of scrimmage. I’m going to really enjoy my experience in Mobile.
JM: You played a bunch of positions at South Carolina. They used you at 0-technique, 3-technique, and really all over the defensive line. What is it about your frame and skill set that allows you to play multiple positions?
Zacch Pickens: My God-given abilities. Some of the stuff I can do, it’s amazing (laughs). I don’t mind putting myself in uncomfortable situations. Actually, I’d rather be uncomfortable as opposed to being too comfortable. I’m able to do some things that blow my mind sometimes (laughs). I have to give credit to how my body is formed.
JM: I love that. How would you describe your pass-rush arsenal? I loved watching you get after quarterbacks on tape.
Zacch Pickens: Right now, I feel like it can be better. That’s one area of my game [rushing the passer] I’m looking to improve in. I want to learn more about the art of rushing the passer. At South Carolina, we were more of a downhill defense. The SEC was a run-heavy conference this year. We didn’t face a lot of big-time passing offenses. I definitely want to become a better pass rusher.
JM: Speaking of defending the run, you’re a violent run defender that deconstructs blocks. What do you enjoy about defending the run?
Zacch Pickens: Oh, that’s the main thing! (laughs). Stopping the run is better than getting a sack. You can always get an opportunity to rush the passer. But if you stop the run, that’s the money down every down.
My favorite thing is when people run away from me because they respect me too much (laughs). I’m used to having offenses run the football away from my direction. I’ve been getting that my entire college career. I really enjoy stopping the run. It’s my main goal.
JM: That does not surprise me. It pops on tape. What can you accomplish at the Senior Bowl that you can’t at other pre-draft events?
Zacch Pickens: It’s another opportunity for me to play football. You never know when it’ll be the last time you’re strapping on the helmet and pads. I never take that for granted. I love playing football and letting loose. That’s exactly what I’m going to do at the Senior Bowl.
JM: Is there a player in the NFL you’re looking forward to eventually swapping jerseys with?
Zacch Pickens: Right now, it’s my guys Jaycee Horn and Javon Kinlaw. I want to swap jerseys with all of the guys I played with at South Carolina. I definitely have to do a jersey swap with Horn and Kinlaw though. Israel Mukuamu also comes to mind.
JM: Those are some excellent choices. At the end of the week, what does a successful Senior Bowl week look like for Zacch Pickens?
Zacch Pickens: It looks like me raising my pre-draft stock. I’m going to raise my stock in Mobile. It’s going higher than it currently is. I don’t know where it’s at, but I want to improve it nonetheless (laughs). I’m going to become a better football player thanks to the experience at the Senior Bowl.
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