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Zach Minter has impressed Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker

Updated: August 13, 2013 9:58AM



BOURBONNAIS — Defensive tackle Zach Minter’s fumble recovery against the Panthers might look like a case of a player being in the right place at the right time.

But it’s what the undrafted rookie from Montana State did to get to that place that has the Bears talking. Minter plowed through Panthers guard Hayworth Hicks and into the backfield, where a botched handoff led to a loose ball.

“You know what? He has been impressive,” defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said Monday. “We’ve taken note of Zach because he’s strong. He has good initial quickness. He has a high motor. He’s all over the field. He finishes every play.”

At 6-1, 297 pounds, Minter is built like a bowling ball and always seems to be rolling into the backfield. He has earned snaps with the second-team defense and has a real chance at making the Bears if his strong play continues.

“You can see that he’s got a good get-off,” defensive line coach Mike Phair said. “He’s got some tools, and he’s just learning.”

The Bears kept an eye on Minter throughout the draft. A two-time All-Big Sky first-team selection, Minter opened a lot of eyes at the NFL’s super-regional combine in Dallas, and getting drafted late became a real possibility. When he wasn’t, the Bears pounced.

It didn’t take Minter too long to impress. The Bears initially tried him at nose tackle, but he recently has seen more time at the three-technique. Phair also has experimented with him at defensive end in some drills.

Minter, whose mother is from Arlington Heights, said he’s striving to be that “utility guy.”

“I like playing three-technique because that’s more applicable to how I play, getting off the ball, getting in the backfield, being disruptive,” Minter said. “Nose takes on a little bit more double teams, but I’m happy to play both, no matter what it is, as long as I get on the field.”

Even though he did make a fumble recovery in his first NFL game, Minter thought more plays could’ve been made.

“There’s just things I remember back on the field that I can do better at,” he said.

It’s that attitude that helps Minter remain focused on going from undrafted to the 53-man roster. There definitely are spots to be won on the defensive line.

“He’s not perfect — none of us are — but he has shown improvement,” Tucker said. “We’re always looking for big guys that can move and be stout in the run game, and then he’s actually shown some ability to get some push in the pocket. We’ll see how he continues to go.”

Email: ajahns@suntimes.com

Twitter: @adamjahns



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