Michigan defensive lineman Rashan Gary discusses how he has devoted himself to film study.
Ann Arbor — Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown is not one to toss around accolades for the sake of hearing himself overhype his players.
That’s just not his style.
It was clear when Brown, after Michigan’s first spring practice last Friday, said he can’t imagine a better tandem in the country than Rashan Gary and senior-to-be Maurice Hurst, he was not just saying it for effect.
Gary, who will be a sophomore in the fall, agrees with Brown.
“That’s the goal, and yes I do believe in it,” Gary said of Brown’s comment.
Why is he so sure?
“Because I know (Hurst’s) ability, and he know mine,” he said. “We both have goals. I know his, he know mine.”
Gary said after practice Tuesday that he can’t publicly share those goals.
“You’ll see them when they’re accomplished,” he said. “It’s going to be some big news. You’re going to know.”
What we do know is that Gary stood out during Michigan’s “spring combine” that bridged winter conditioning and spring practice. He ran a 4.57 40-yard dash — Hurst last Friday laughed and raised an eyebrow at the time and wondered if the time was slightly embellished – had a 31-inch vertical and won two of the drills and the broad jump (9-feet, 6-inches).
“Everybody knows what kind of athlete Rashan is,” Ben Bredeson, who started at left guard last fall as a freshman, said Tuesday. “We’ve known that for two years. You don’t see guys that weigh 300 pounds run that fast. We all know what he can do, and he’s doing very well this spring.”
Gary and Hurst will anchor a defensive line that must replace four starters who are NFL-bound. The good news for the Wolverines is their rotation on the line last year has made the returning group experienced.
Chris Wormley and Taco Charlton, who await the NFL draft, took special care of Gary after his arrival last summer, and he considers them his big brothers. They said last Saturday at Pro Day that they expect Gary to be a top-five or top-10 pick in a couple years.
Gary has adopted the role they shared last year and although he’s still a freshman, he’s taken on a “big brother” role with the early enrollee freshmen and is warming to the idea of being more of a leader.
“It’s kind of weird, but it’s something I’ve got to get used to,” Gary said of being a leader at such a young age. “Right now I’m embracing that leadership role and I’m just bringing them along the way. I’m probably a little bit more on the quiet side, but now I’ve got to be more vocal, so I’m working on both.”
Gary has been working on shaping every aspect of his game.
“Right now, what I felt I had to do was get my body right, get my body more in shape,” he said. “I’m just ready to take the banging we take during the season. I did think I did that and I worked on my mental game. When I say mental, that’s just hitting film, looking at things I messed up on last year where I need to go in this year and keep working.”
That’s where Wormley and Charlton come in. Sort of.
Studying film has been one of Gary’s main areas of focus. He went over his game film from last year and picking up things he needed to improve. But he also has made a point to study how Wormley and Charlton pass rushed and how they played the run.
“Just taking parts of their game that I felt I could add to mine and make mine better,” he said.
Defensive lineman Rashan Gary on being a young leader on Michigan's team.
There’s no doubt Gary understands the expectations and pressures on him and the rest of the defensive line.
“It’s something I think about every day, what I’ve got to do to get better to be where they’re at right now,” he said, referring to Wormley and Charlton. “That’s basically what’s going to keep on pushing me through because they were my big brothers and they expect a lot.
“Right now I feel now I know what I’m doing. I don’t need to question myself. I know what blocks I need to play. I know how to play them. It’s a little bit smoother now. Now it’s flowing. I’ve got to keep working on it.”
Those who started on Michigan’s defensive line last fall have said repeatedly there will be no dropoff this fall. Wormley said last Saturday he thinks this group will be more athletic.
Gary’s said he also has no doubts about the defensive line.
“We’re not going to lose a step at all,” he said. “We’re young, we’re hungry, ready to go, fast moving and just anxious and excited.”