Previously: Last year's profiles. S Josh Metellus, S Khaleke Hudson, CB David Long, CB Lavert Hill, LB Elysee Mbem-Bosse, LB Devin Bush Jr., LB Devin Gil, LB Josh Uche, DE Ron Johnson, DT Michael Dwumfour.
|Paramus, NJ – 6'4", 293|
|Scout||5*, #1 overall
#1 DT, #1 NJ
|Rivals||5*, #1 overall
#1 DT, #1 NJ
|ESPN||5*, #1 overall
#1 DT, #1 NJ
|24/7||5*, #1 overall
#1 DT, #1 NJ
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
|Notes||Paramus Catholic (Jabrill Peppers, Juwann Bushell-Beatty, Chris Partridge.)|
Michigan has never grabbed the consensus top prospect in the country since recruiting rankings were a thing. Maybe Drew Henson would have been that guy if the recruiting-industrial complex had gotten going slightly earlier. It did not, and thus Gary is undisputed as the highest-profile prospect ever to don a winged helmet. And it's close when it comes to any helmet, any time.
There are many reasons for this. One is the fact that as a rising junior his SPARQ test was better than the average DL at the NFL combine. Ian Boyd:
The numbers on Gary are jaw-dropping, no matter how inflated high schooler measurables can be. In a partially laser-timed SPARQ test before his junior year, he produced the following results, blowing away all other 2016 stars tested at the national event.
Height Weight 40 time Shuttle time Vertical leap Rashan Gary as a high school junior 6'4" 287 4.74 4.38 32.1" Average 2015 NFL Combine defensive lineman 6'3 1/2" 286 4.96 4.5 32.2"
That group includes some relatively lean defensive ends; Gary's got a big enough body to play defensive tackle. His 40 time was better than what 15 linebackers produced at last year's Combine. Three wide receivers had slower shuttle times, and five linebackers had lesser vertical leaps. Some of those NFL prospects were as many as 80 pounds lighter than Gary.
Some perspective from Scout's Scott Kennedy:
He out-jumped a wide receiver, he out-shuttled a defensive back and he out-40'd a BCS safety commit. At 287 pounds, that's insane.
Those numbers were gathered at the Opening in 2014, and his play matched or exceeded the promise therein. Despite being one of only two 2016 players invited, he was amongst the best players—not just defensive ends—present. Scout placed him in their East top five afterwards:
He was a combination of strength, power, athleticism and freakish natural ability. He didn’t win every rep, but he darn near did. And he did it despite having limited technique. Gary used his speed, balance and competitive fire to stand out, and make plenty of other players step back and watch.
Other analysts declared him "ridiculous" with "incredible burst, balance and strength"; "ridiculous" (again); and exclaimed that "speed, power, agility, acceleration, strength… yeah, Gary has it all." All of this was as a prospect a year younger than the rest of the best dudes in the country.
By the time the 2015 version of the same event rolled around he left no question who the main dude was. Then he followed that up with an impressive high school season and more of the same at the Under Armour game, where he tied a game record with three sacks after spending a week in practice making every five-star OL in the game look foolish. (Ben Bredeson drew mention as the only guy to give him even momentary pause, but that's another profile.)
Let us now deploy the longest and most effusive bulleted scouting lightning round in the history of this series.
- Greg Mattison, Michigan DL coach: "The thing that's so exciting about Rashan is that you can watch a highlight tape and then you can watch an entire game. And it's the same thing."
- Adam Gorney, Rivals: "Incredibly active, he’s like a whirling dervish, he’s impossible to stop and he’s going to be the guy every single play that just keeps going after offensive tackles so in the third and forth quarter he’s going to wear a lot of people down and get a lot of his plays.”
- Josh Newberg, 247: "In my nine years covering [the UA] game, I think Gary may be the single most dominant player I’ve seen. When he’s not sacking the quarterback, which he’s done a lot this week, he is disruptive as hell."
- Adam Friedman, Rivals: “He’s been totally dominant, tossing guys around from the first minute of the first practice on, just totally dominant. Today, during one-on-ones, he was going over, around and through guys. … You can’t say enough good things about how he’s done out here.”
- Bill Greene, Scout: "Last year at Under Armour featured three tremendous defensive tackles in Christian Wilkins, Terry Beckner and Daylon Mack. All three played well this year as true freshman. What I saw out of Gary today puts him way above those three. There are very few true difference-makers coming out of high school every year. Rashan Gary is exactly that."
- Barton Simmons, 247: "everything you want out of an elite defender. He's coachable, plays with effort and intensity, he's one of the best athletes in this class and he's versatile."
- Same dude: "Rashan Gary is the best prospect in the country right now. The guy may not have had two bad reps the entire camp. If an OL didn't come correct with Gary lined up on in front of him, he was going to not only get beat, but also get embarrassed. How good is Gary? This was the best defensive line performance I've seen since The Opening's inception."
- Mike Farrell, Rivals: "Just an animal, 100-percent every drill, 100-percent every rep, constant motor, physical as heck, puts offensive linemen on skates, really dominant whether he’s playing end or tackle. Everything as advertised, today.” … "as dominant as I’ve ever seen from a defensive tackle who played mostly outside and was still too fast and athletic for everyone.”
- 247 collectively, post-Opening: "just dominant. In every drill, every situation, every rep, he was the best The Opening had to offer. In fact, he's one of the best we've ever seen at The Opening. … If we're making bets on what alumni from this event are going to be sitting in the green room on NFL Draft night in a 3.5 years, the smart money is on Gary."
- Brian Dohn, Scout: "Gary is the most impressive prospect I covered at the high school level. If it was a camp setting, he dominated. If it was a game, it took two and sometimes three players to slow him down. Even when he was not making a play, he was impacting the game because he freed up others to make tackles. His speed, acceleration and power was always amazing to see."
Finally, Greg Powers resorted to the same shrug Michigan fans are currently deploying when they talk about Jourdan Lewis:
Rashan Gary did Rashan Gary type things. He is the No. 1 prospect for a reason. There are not too many more superlatives you can throw on him.
I deleted twice as much as I included here; the only thing less than rapturous is his ESPN profile, which has some of that disconnect between ranking and report that crops up. It's not bad by any means; a ton of "excellent" and "very good"… it's just more clinical:
Gary is a talented prospect that can wreak havoc at the high school level and has the size and has flashed the maturity to be able to come into a program and be able to contribute quickly. While a very good player at this stage, still has room to improve and round out his game and that current ability coupled with some continued upside makes him an excellent prospect.
I guess that guy who evaluated Isaiah Bell is no longer with the company.
He's a consensus #1 player. He's the first defensive tackle to finish #1 overall on Rivals. While Rivals doesn't think he's the quite best prospect ever, he's "somewhere in the middle" of a list of luminaries including guys like Vince Young, Adrian Peterson, and Percy Harvin. For much of the year 247 had him as one of the rare players who they'll break their ranking scale for. In the six years that 247 has been around, only 6 have gotten a ranking above 100. Five have gone on to be college superstars: Fournette, Clowney, Kouandijo, Nkemdiche, and Garrett. These are guys who don't need first names for CFB fans to identify them. (Okay, maybe Garrett since his name is kind of common: that's A&M defensive end Myles, currently projected by many to be the top pick in next year's draft.) The fifth, Trent Thompson, just finished his freshman year at Georgia. 247 broke the scale for Gary, too, and only reeled it back in late. Instead of a 101, he's now a 100. C'est la vie.
Recruiting rankings are in fact gospel when it comes to the bluest of the blue chips. Aside from a few guys (Dorial Green-Beckham, Bryce Brown, Seantrel Henderson) who didn't make it for reasons other than their talent, every Rivals or Scout #1 player in the last decade has at least been good and has usually been excellent. And even Brown and Henderson stuck on NFL rosters, with Henderson starting every game as a rookie.
Gary doesn't have any apparent character issues—in addition to Gary's insane suite of physical skills, he's consistently praised for his effort level and coachability. When Mike Farrell put together his awards from the UA game he mentioned Gary a half-dozen times; he probably would have named him winner of all those categories if he wasn't aiming for some variety. The awards he did give Gary are illuminating. One was for being the guy with the highest motor; the other was for most consistency. Meanwhile Michigan has a guy on staff who knows Gary very well. Chris Partridge:
"There are certain players who just have something," Partridge continued. "A work ethic on the field and in the classroom and a love for the game where they've got a bounce in their step when they hit the field."
He stacks up towards the upper end of these #1 prospects given the various superlatives that apply not just to his class but to anyone many of these scouting veterans have ever seen.
The recruiting folks have a strike rate near 100% on guys of this caliber, and on average this cohort of dudes trails Rashan Gary. If he stays healthy he's a lock All Big Ten player and it would be an upset if he wasn't an All-American.
But where does he go? The same place a grizzly bear goes: anywhere he wants. Clint Brewster:
He fits in any defensive scheme. Gary’s got the edge rushing ability to be a finesse defensive end in a 4-3 or a defensive tackle. He can really play any technique along the defensive line because of his blend of athleticism, quickness, size, and explosive power.
That evaluation is repeated various places. Put his hand in the dirt and you're good. The Boyd article above is all about how to deploy him, eventually settling on a combination of end and three-tech depending on Michigan's needs on any particular Saturday, on any particular snap. Brewster projects he'll settle in the 310-pound range, which is plenty big enough for DT and could make it challenging for even Gary to get a consistent edge rush.
To start Michigan plans to deploy him as a defensive end. That makes sense given the composition of the roster, which is thick with talented DTs. That composition changes radically next year, when the only veteran DTs on the roster other than the probable starters—Mone and Hurst—are Brady Pallante and Michael Dwumfour. Gary will probably stick at SDE, nominally, and start there, but he'll get an increasing number of 3-tech snaps as Michigan spots the DT starters.
Long term he fits best as the rare defensive tackle who is an impact pass rusher. His impact at 3tech is going to be greater than it will at SDE because a pass rush up the gut is doom in a way that coming around the corner isn't always; the number of players who can be a disruptive force in the backfield shrinks as you go from WDE to SDE to 3TECH to NT. Gary will end up at the place his impact is most outsized, except insofar as his position is "Being Rashan Gary." That spot is three-tech.
Etc.: South Carolina is weird, man. The most convincing explanation I've heard for the racist voicemail his school received is that it was a Gamecock fan.
Why Ndamukong Suh? Gary has the same kind of size and outlandish athleticism that Suh developed over his tenure at Nebraska. Suh was a four-star recruit who took significantly longer to develop than Gary projects to, only making an impact at Nebraska as a redshirt junior. But when he did, Nebraska's defense was just about impregnable. Suh's NFL draft profile reads almost exactly like Gary's scouting above does:
Suh is an excellent combination of size, strength and athleticism. He isn't a massive body but has enough power to play as a nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme or as a 4-3 defense tackle or end. … often unblockable for one offensive lineman and draws many double teams from opposing offenses. ….supreme blend of power and explosiveness from the defensive tackle spot. Possesses great size and strength to hold up at the point of attack in the running game or bull rush the pocket. Uses his athleticism and instincts to chase down running plays. Highly-competitive performer with a big-time motor.
Suh bore that out in the NFL, albeit with some anger management issues that Gary doesn't appear to have.
The closest Michigan comparable is probably Allen Branch, who was the kind of massively disruptive three-tech Gary projects to be down the road. I thought about Lamarr Woodley and Brandon Graham since both were five star recruits who provided buckets of pass rush from the SDE spot, but both those guys are a couple inches shorter and 40-50 pounds lighter than the finished version of Gary projects to be.
Guru Reliability: Exacting. As per usual with the top player in the country he gets scouted top to bottom.
Variance: Low. Already college-ready size, speed, and strength—make that NFL-ready. Coachable, smart, and high effort.
Ceiling: Vast. NFL first round pick potential, yes. First overall potential, yes.
General Excitement Level: /tents fingers, cackles.
Projection: Should slot in at SDE behind either Wormley or Charlton, depending on how things shake out. Even the surest things along the defensive line usually take a season or two to wind up to full viciousness, and Michigan has really good players across the front. He will still get a ton of playing time at SDE and as a tackle on passing downs, enough to be a virtual… uh… sixth starter along with the actual starters and Bryan Mone.
As a sophomore he moves into the starting lineup, probably still at SDE. While the roster is pretty scanty at DT after Mo Hurst and Mone, there aren't any slam dunk guys at SDE either; the best line Michigan has will put all three out at the same time. In his third and probably final year at Michigan, he's highly likely to move inside to three-tech, where he has his highest upside. From there to the stars.