Who's the new face of the B1G? Making the case for Rashan Gary
I have no idea how LeBron James did it.
You know, be the labeled “the next Michael Jordan” at age 17, get more attention than any prep athlete ever…and somehow surpass that hype. Regardless of one’s personal feelings about the NBA megastar, it’s one of the more remarkable sports feats ever.
Rashan Gary didn’t exactly have James’ hype, but he was the consensus No. 1 overall recruit in the 2016 class. He was Michigan’s highest-rated recruit ever, which put the spotlight on him the second he signed his National Letter of Intent to go to Ann Arbor.
Has Gary surpassed that hype like James? Not yet, but I’d argue that he definitely lived up to his billing in his first two seasons. Not many second-year linemen earn first team All-B1G honors (media) for a unit that ranked No. 3 in total defense. Gary already did that.
Heading into what figures to be his final college season, Gary will get some All-America buzz and no shortage of NFL draft buzz. He’s poised to surpass that once-insurmountable hype that he entered college with.
Does that mean Gary is worthy of being considered the face of the B1G? Let’s make a case for that.
I know what the skeptics say about Gary. His numbers weren’t as good as Nick Bosa’s (Gary had 4 less tackles for loss and 2.5 less sacks in 2017), and one could make a pretty good case for why Devin Bush or Chase Winovich had a better year than Gary. Also, he played for an 8-5 team.
I get all of that. Those reasons were why Gary wasn’t a consensus first team All-B1G selection.
But in terms of upside, Gary still has All-American and No. 1 overall pick potential.
Is part of that because of his No. 1 recruit ranking? Sure, but don’t forget just how freakish of an athlete Gary is. After his true freshman season, the guy ran the 40-yard dash like a tailback (4.57 seconds) and he did the 3-cone drill faster than any defensive lineman or linebacker at last year’s NFL Scouting Combine (6.7 seconds).
That might not impress everyone. Gary is far more than a workout warrior, though.
On the field, one mustn’t forget that while Bush and Winovich were in position to make plays, it was often Gary who took on double teams to free them up. That type of stuff doesn’t show up in the box score, but you better believe it played a huge part in fueling Michigan’s elite defense. And for the talk about his lack of box score production, Gary finished with 66 tackles compared to 34 for Bosa.
There’s another thing. Since when is a defensive lineman slighted for not leading his team to a conference championship? Nobody remembers the fact that Reggie White never led Tennessee to anything better than a fourth-place finish in the SEC. Any notion that Gary was to blame for Michigan’s inability to reach a B1G Championship is absurd.
For this argument, however, reaching that elusive conference title would add to Gary’s case as the face of the B1G. Part of the reason that he might be there yet is because he played on a stacked defensive line as a true freshman and in his sophomore season, Michigan was essentially out of the conference title race by midseason.
Gary still produced in big games. He had two sacks against Ohio State and another in the Outback Bowl loss to South Carolina.
— DLineVids (@DLineVids) November 25, 2017
And I’m not saying the guy gets held a lot, but let’s just say his jersey probably has weekly stretch marks.
Gary is going to be at the top of the scouting report and he has the ability to take over a game whenever he steps on the field. Something tells me that without Maurice Hurst — he’s the only starter Michigan loses on defense — Gary is going to have plenty of opportunities to go off.
Even though NFL riches are in his future, Gary still has plenty of motivation to finish his career on a high note. We’re probably going to hear about all of his incredible workout numbers throughout the offseason. As long as he can stay healthy, there’s no reason not to expect him to maximize his potential in 2018.
The word “potential” is so key with Gary because it’s not crazy to think that he can match the insane production of Joey Bosa’s sophomore season in Columbus (21.5 TFLs, 13.5 sacks) and exceed Nick Bosa in those “sexier” statistical categories.
Is that enough to say that Gary is the face of the B1G right now? Perhaps not.
But for my money, he’s the most intriguing player in the conference heading into 2018.