It’s been quite a first year for Jim Harbaugh back at Michigan. Not only did he lead his alma mater to a 10-win season and spark Michigan to a No. 12 ranking in 2015, but the former Wolverine QB just signed the nation’s No. 1 overall recruit in New Jersey’s Rashan Gary. The 6-foot-4, 300-pound defensive lineman announced on Wednesday he’s going to play at Michigan.
"I picked Michigan because that’s a place where I felt comfortable,” Gary explained on ESPN. "That’s a place where my family felt comfortable. That’s a place where I felt the academic support is great and the degree holds a lot of weight.”
Gary was the overwhelming top vote-getter this week when FOX Sports surveyed 36 college coaches about the recruit they thought was most likely to make a big impact as a freshman in 2016. Gary received eight votes from the college coaches we surveyed.
"This is a really good defensive line class and he is head and shoulders above every other D-lineman in this class," one longtime college coach said. "He’s 300 pounds and he moves well enough, he can play end. He’s great with his hands. He’s strong. He’s been very well-coached and has had a great high school D-line coach. Rashan Gary is the Leonard Fournette of this class."
Said one in-house recruiting coordinator who has worked at two Power 5 conference schools: "He’s a 300-pounder who moves like he’s 240. He is special."
The Wolverines were long considered the favorite for Gary. They beat, among others, Auburn, USC, Ole Miss, Clemson and Alabama to land Gary. It certainly didn’t hurt Michigan’s chances that one of Gary’s former high school coaches, Chris Partridge, was just recently promoted to special teams coordinator after arriving in Ann Arbor as director of player personnel.
Former Cal O-lineman Todd Huber, the OL/DL player personnel director for Nike’s big summer event which brings the nation’s Top 150 recruits to Oregon for The Opening, called Gary the best D-lineman they have had at The Opening in his five years observing all of the elite prospects. "I think he lost only three reps out of the 23 or 24 he had the entire week," said Huber. "With Rashan, he was so dominant and I know a lot of people look at his size and just see him as a D-tackle, but I think he can be as effective as a D-end or inside. There are no holes in his game. He doesn’t take plays off. He has a great first two steps. He has incredible bend coming off the edge. He moves like (former five-star defensive end prospect) Byron Cowart only he’s 40 pounds heavier. He’s incredibly intelligent. He’s a sponge.”
The Wolverines were very good on defense in 2015, but do have to replace standout D-lineman Willie Henry, who left early to enter the NFL Draft after making 10 TFLs and 6 1/2 sacks. However, Michigan does return star DL Chris Wormley, who had 14.5 TFLs and 6 1/2 sacks in 2015.