Does Notre Dame have shot at top defensive lineman Rashan Gary?

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

BEAVERTON, Ore. — Mention the name of Notre Dame freshman quarterback Brandon Wimbush and Rashan Gary starts to have flashbacks.

The five-star defensive lineman from Paramus Catholic lost against Wimbush and St. Peter’s Prep in a New Jersey state championship last December. More than once, Gary thought he had Wimbush lined up for a sack but the elusive quarterback escaped his pursuit. Gary still managed five tackles and two sacks in the game, but it wasn’t enough to slow down Wimbush in a 34-18 win for St. Peter’s Prep.

“To this day, I missed two or three sacks on him that I wish I could have had,” Gary said. “That could have been a game changer. With his speed, he must have felt me. He has great pocket presence. I was coming off the edge and I said, ‘I got him. I got him.’ I went for him and he spun out. I was like ‘Oh, wow.’ He’s a great QB. I wish I could go against him again and get it back.”

If Notre Dame’s coaching staff had its choice, the only time Gary would be able to chase after Wimbush would be as teammates in a future Irish practice. Wimbush, who threw for 167 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 158 yards and another touchdown in the state championship game, is considered one of the gems in Notre Dame’s freshman class. Gary would be the undisputed star in any recruiting class nationally.

Gary, a 6-foot-4, 290-pound prospect, entered the week of The Opening Finals at Nike World Headquarters as one of the top defensive linemen in the country. He lived up to those expectations. Playing both on the interior and a defensive end, Gary overpowered many of the offensive linemen trying to slow him down in pass protection. Gary dominated so much that when he lost a rep — a strong block by Irish offensive line commit Parker Boudreaux — it became noteworthy enough to be cut into a video of its own.

“This is going to be the best look I’m going to get all season,” Gary said. “It’s a lot of five-stars, great tackles and great guards that I’m going against out here. I’m just out here to prove that I’m No. 1 for a reason.”

247Sports slates Gary as the No. 1 defensive tackle in the 2016 class and the No. 2 overall prospect. Rivals ranks Gary as the No. 2 defensive tackle and No. 6 overall. The coaching staff at The Opening crowned Gary as the defensive line MVP for the week.

Todd Huber, who helps select linemen for the camp, said Gary is the best defensive lineman to compete at The Opening ahead of the like of Kahlil McKenzie, A’Shawn Robinson, Byron Cowart, Sheldon Day and Eddie Vanderdoes.

Regardless of where Gary stacks up in the hierarchy of the nation’s best defensive linemen, dozens of schools are trying to get him to their campus.

Despite not visiting Notre Dame during a June trip to see Michigan and Ohio State, Gary said the Irish are still likely to receive a visit.

“I got a visit planned for Notre Dame, I just don’t have the exact date yet,” Gary said.

The Irish have work to do in trying to beat Ohio State, Michigan and SEC programs like Alabama, Georgia, Auburn, and Ole Miss in Gary’s recruitment. He plans to make another trip down south before the end of the summer.

At Ohio State, Gary has a strong relationship with defensive line coach Larry Johnson. 

“My mom likes Larry Johnson,” Gary said. “That’s a relationship that I’ve built since the ninth grade. I’m very close with him.”

Michigan hired Gary’s former head coach, Chris Partridge, as director of player personnel and recruiting in the offseason. A pull from him and former Paramus Catholic stars Jabrill Peppers and Juwann Bushell-Beatty could put the Wolverines in a good position to land Gary.

“My coach knows the scheme I can play,” Gary said of Partridge. “He knows the type of player I am and he knows the type of student I am. So he’s going to lead me toward a place that will fit me.”

Gary said he wants to form a list of his top five schools before starting his senior year, but that may only be a landmark in a recruiting process that drags out until signing day. Adding a player like Gary will be worth the wait.

Below are Gary's junior highlights via Hudl. | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Five-star defensive lineman Rashan Gary. (Photo courtesy of Nike)