Michigan defensive end Rashan Gary discusses the team Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News


Ann Arbor — Rashan Gary has made clear he wants Michigan’s defensive line to be considered the best in the country, not to mention he’s also made it clear he wants to be part of the nation’s best defensive end duo with Chase Winovich.

But seeing clearly has also been a big part of Gary’s offseason.

He said he has “new eyes” on the field now that he’s wearing contact lenses, which are a bit of a nuisance but have made all the difference in his world.

Gary, voted the team’s top defensive lineman last season and an All-Big Ten first-team selection, was voted a preseason All-Big Ten selection in the East Division. Last season he had 65 tackles, including 11½ for loss.  He had 5 1/2 sacks.

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He has big plans for his junior season, and it starts, in part, with improved vision.

‘It’s a good feeling,” Gary, a junior, said Friday night after practice. “See a lot better. I’m wearing contacts now, and I’m able to see the field more. That’s a big deal for me.”

He couldn’t quite explain how much more in focus his vision is this year than last season, but it’s obvious.

“A lot different (than last year),” he said. ‘I don’t know how to say it. I’ve been playing football since the seventh grade without glasses, so I know how to play football but now it’s a different vision. Now I can see how I see off the field and how I see on the field. It’s weird.”

Gary said he spoke to his mother and coaches about getting his vision checked.

“I feel like I had to step outside of my comfort box getting contacts,” he said. “And making that move, I can definitely see a lot better, and I wish I would have done that earlier.”

He’s not a fan of wearing contacts, though. So far he hasn’t managed to lose one while practicing.

“I still don’t like them now, but it’s something I need to do to play how I want to play,” Gary said. “I’m still not used to them but it’s something I need to play how I need to play.”

One by one the players have said they’ve been transformed physically by new strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert. Gary is no different.

Gary enters his third season with big goals and high hopes and feels he’s right where he needs to be to be a difference maker for the team and to help lead the line and overall defense to the lofty goals he has set. Earlier this summer, he said he took a Sharpie and wrote “Best Defensive Line in the Country” in his locker, a permanent reminder of what he wants to see accomplished.

“Physically, got stronger with the new strength staff. Been eating better,” Gary said. “Working on the little things. Everything I want to make perfect, so every day I go out there when it comes to my step, hand placement, pass rushing, just working being a leader because I have young guys to bring along.

“My game is right where it needs to be, but it’s going to turn up. It’s going to turn up. I’m right in my comfort zone. I’m right where I know where I need to do and things I need to get better at. I see things to make me that great player.  Being consistent with everything. I’m loving how I’m molding myself. I like how I’m coming in head down just trying to be that player I know I can be.”

The defensive line will draw its personality from Gary and Winovich, but it all starts with coach Greg Mattison.

“He’s not going to let you be average,” Gary said. “He knows your potential. He’s going to push you to get that out of you.”

That’s a mentality that has permeated the team.

“It’s great to be a Michigan Wolverine right now, pushing to be the best we can be,” he said. “That’s our attitude going into every practice, every meeting, just make ourselves the best players possible to be a better team.”