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Rashan Gary to Michigan: Wolverines Land 5-Star DT Prospect

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistFebruary 3, 2016

via 247 Sports

The class of 2016's best defensive player has landed. Defensive tackle Rashan Gary gave his verbal commitment to Michigan on Wednesday, ending a process that included scholarship offers from nearly every major program.

Barrett Sallee of Bleacher Report relayed Gary's decision.

The defensive tackle from Paramus, New Jersey, who is the No. 1 overall prospect in 247Sports' composite rankings, was also considered a top target of Ole Miss, Alabama, Auburn, USC and Clemson. The Crimson Tide held an early lead during the process, with a majority of 247Sports' experts ranking Nick Saban and Co. high heading into Gary's senior year.

Paul Myerberg of USA Today noted Gary is the first No. 1 overall recruit to sign with a team outside the SEC since Terrelle Pryor committed to Ohio State in 2008.

A personal recruitment from coach Jim Harbaugh helped sway the race in Michigan's direction. The Wolverines moved up rapidly after Harbaugh's hire, becoming a significant favorite near signing day and ousting a number of early front-runners, including Penn State.

The Nittany Lions were the first major program to express interest in Gary, offering him in June 2013 and keeping him close to the vest. He'd already visited campus three times before the end of his junior year. Most other programs had chosen to send their coaches Gary's way instead of having him come to campus.

Michigan was able to ascend into consideration in part due to the presence of Chris Partridge, Gary's former coach at Paramus Catholic. Harbaugh hired Partridge as a recruiting coordinator, though how much sway he has is unclear.

"Chris would never steer him to a school," Paramus Catholic offensive coordinator Greg Russo said last year, per Darren Cooper of the Record. "Rashan is going to go visit places in the spring. He has a lot of things set up. At the end of the day, if Rashan's mom and him and his support staff here at Paramus Catholic feel like [Michigan] is the best place for him, then it is. He will do great wherever he goes."

Listed at 6'5" and 293 pounds, Gary was probably ready to play major collegiate football two years ago. He's a big, explosive athlete who wreaks havoc in the backfield by combining his strength and quickness off the ball. In 2015, he recorded 55 tackles, 13.5 sacks and four forced fumbles, per 247Sports.

From a skill-set standpoint, it's hard to find a more complete defensive tackle. Gary is springy enough to be an elite pass-rushing threat and strong enough to disrupt the run. Once he gets into a major college program and works with a position coach, it shouldn't take him long to develop into a contributor. It'd be a surprise to see him take a redshirt, even with the depth Michigan already has in place.

All of that is a long way away, though. For now, Jim Harbaugh has a big cornerstone in what's shaping up to be a strong 2016 class.

Recruit star ratings and rankings via 247Sports, unless otherwise noted.

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