Don’t underestimate UM’s D-line, Rashan Gary warns

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Rashan Gary chases down Brandon Peters during Michigan's spring game.

Ann Arbor – Even during his down time, Rashan Gary chooses to work and study, always trying to find an edge.

Gary and a group of teammates, who helped assist kids attending Michigan's camps last weekend, got a breather at lunch and took a seat. Gary was glued to his cell phone watching clips on a couple Instagram sites he frequently visits – MarkHallFront7 and ChuckSmithTrainingSystems. Hall is a private defensive line and outside linebacker coach, and Smith also works with those position groups.

“They show you different moves, different pass rushers,” Gary said, pointing out particular videos. “I get things from it. I enjoy watching certain moves and then going out and trying to do them. I work on them now so when it comes to camp, I can then tell you how it works.”

Gary, the No. 1 player in the country coming out of Paramus (N.J.) Catholic in 2016, is entering his sophomore season and knows the bar has been set extremely high for him. He was stunned when he heard defensive coordinator Don Brown describe him as the “best I’ve ever seen” at the position. “He’s unbelievable. The sky is the limit,” Brown continued. “The good thing is I think he understands that there’s a lot on his shoulders.”

“I was shocked,” Gary said of Brown’s comments. “That means a lot to me. That only makes me work harder. I’m hungry, I’m really hungry.”

Before former defensive linemen Taco Charlton and Chris Wormley moved on to the NFL, they gave Gary what he calls “little messages” – the contents of which he won’t reveal. But it is clear they also have expectations of the player they helped mentor last season.

Rashan Gary

“Taco said, ‘By the time I come back if that doesn’t happen, I didn’t do what was supposed to do,’” Gary said, without explaining what exactly Charlton expects. “That’s not going to be the case at all. I’m hungry to prove everybody that slept on me – anybody who doesn’t believe in my abilities – wrong.”

Real or imagined, Gary is fueled by those who might not think he is as good as he knows he can be.

“There are a couple people out there, they might be quiet, but I know they’re still out there,” he said, referring to the doubters.

That’s motivation enough for him to do whatever it takes to improve his game, whether it’s picking up tips from online video clips or stepping into a leadership role, guiding the younger players while also having a give-and-take relationship with the older players.

That’s also why Gary is working so hard to help bring along the players behind the starters, including Carlo Kemp, who is backing him up.

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“Oh, man, me and Carlo at the end of camp are going to be a nice one-two punch,” he said. “He’s been working me. We’ve been working together on things to fine-tune my game and fine-tune his game, so we’re going to be a nice combo together.”

Defensive line coach Greg Mattison recently said the linemen are operating with a chip on their shoulders since many pundits doubt Michigan's line this fall can equal the NFL talent that started last season. Mattison is confident the new starting group will be solid, and Gary echoes that opinion.

“No doubt about it,” Gary said. “We’re working to become the best defensive line in the country. That’s the goal we challenge each other to every day. Every time we work out, we have to be the best at what we do. I love it, I love it, I love it. I love having this chip. It makes me work harder. Me and Chase (Winovich), we’re trying to be the best bookends in the nation. Me and Mo (Hurst) are trying to be the best strong side in college.

“We’ve got goals, and we’re going after them because a lot of people are sleeping on us.”