For at least two years, Michigan has chased Rashan Gary.
Wednesday, the Wolverines landed him.
A recruitment that spanned a few years, a few coaches, a few defensive coordinators and a few of his own head coaches, ended in Michigan’s favor when Gary, the Paramus (N.J.) Catholic star, announced on ESPN that he will attend Michigan.
As the first No. 1 overall recruit to join the Wolverines in the modern recruiting period (the past 15 years or so), Gary becomes the defining recruit of the two-year Jim Harbaugh era and proof that this coaching staff can land an elite player, even while battling recruiting powers.
“I’m feeling good. A lot of stress off me, so I’m happy,” Gary said during an interview on ESPN’s national signing day special. “Man, coming to the stage, I was talking to both coaches up until then. It took everything to really settle down and really, you know, go through the thought process. God sent me a signal.
“I picked Michigan because, you know, that’s a place where I felt comfortable. That’s a place where my family felt comfortable. That’s a place where I felt the academic support is great and the degree holds a lot of weight. It’s going to help me for a lifetime goal, and that’s to make sure I provide for my family.”
Even with Michigan’s dominant defensive line, Gary has the talent and ability to play immediately, a force some have compared to Reggie White, with the size at 6-5 and 300 pounds, but still the speed to rush the passer.
Michigan has long been the favorite to land Gary for a multitude of reasons. His early connection was the Wolverines’ defensive line emphasis and relationship with his school, having taken 2014’s No. 2 overall player, Jabrill Peppers, and an offensive lineman, Juwann Bushell-Beatty, from Paramus. Though Gary never played with them, transferring in from Scotch Plains the year after they departed, he played a year under their coach, Chris Partridge.
Then when Partridge left to become Michigan’s player personnel director, the tie became even stronger.
A quick look around the Power Five conferences
The competition between Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh never ends.
Meyer signed the class rated best in the Big Ten, just ahead of Michigan’s.
Meyer’s Buckeyes brought in 25 players, including 17 four-star prospects and five-star defensive end Nick Bosa. Harbaugh’s Wolverines signed 28, including 14 four-stars.
Headlining Ohio State’s class is Bosa, a top-five national prospect who committed to the Buckeyes in July and then had a monster season to help lead St. Thomas Aquinas High in Fort Lauderdale to a Florida state championship.
Florida State’s class of 25 players was ranked as high as No. 2 nationally by recruiting services. The Seminoles’ group includes cornerback Levonta Taylor of Virginia Beach, Virginia. He was the consensus top-ranked cornerback prospect in the country and committed early enough that he helped attract others to the Seminoles.
Elsewhere, North Carolina State signed Thaddeus Moss, the son of former NFL star receiver Randy Moss, and Miami signed Michael Irvin Jr., the son of Hall of Famer and former Hurricane great Michael Irvin.
After going 11-14 in coach Charlie Strong’s first two seasons, an impressive final surge Wednesday gave Texas the Big 12’s top signing class for the second year in a row.
Brandon Jones, one of the nation’s top-rated safeties from Nacogdoches, Texas, slipped on a Longhorns cap instead of signing with Texas A&M. Texas also got two top-notch defensive tackles among its 24 signees.
USC and UCLA had the Pac-12’s top two recruiting classes on national signing day, putting them among the nation’s best.
Helped by two players who made last-minute decisions, the Trojans had the nation’s No. 9 recruiting class, based on a consensus of the top four most popular recruiting websites. The Bruins weren’t far behind their SoCal rivals, checking in at No. 12.
USC had a solid class going under new coach Clay Helton and bolstered it by luring two players away from other schools: safety Jamel Cook from Florida State and running back Vavae Malepeai from Oregon.
Alabama’s still the unquestioned king of Southeastern Conference recruiting.
That doesn’t mean the competition isn’t closing the gap.
The Crimson Tide and coach Nick Saban closed with a flourish during national signing day, receiving letters of intent from several top prospects, including linebackers Ben Davis and Lyndell “Mack” Wilson.
The rest of the SEC was well-represented among the nation’s top classes. LSU, Ole Miss, Georgia, Auburn, Florida, Tennessee and Texas A&M were all ranked among the top 20 in 247Sports composite rankings.