The path to be a starter has become clear for Michigan sophomore defensive lineman Rashan Gary. With Chris Wormley and Taco Charlton moved on, it leaves two spots on the defensive line that someone must step up and take this offseason.
By all accounts, it appears he's doing just that this spring.
Certainly, having played as a true freshman last season goes along way to be prepared for a larger role going forward. However, he hasn't experienced a Jim Harbaugh-led spring camp yet. It's grueling, it's tough and it's an adjustment period for everyone experiencing them for the first time.
According to defensive line coach Greg Mattison, Gary has taken the ball and ran with it. As far back as winter conditioning, he has been doing nothing but impressing the coaching staff. Mattison also credits the departing seniors of last season as being a great example to learn from.
"Rashan comes out every day like he's a senior," Mattison said. "He's done that all throughout winter conditioning. He came out this last season and I really think it had a lot to do with Tach [Charlton] and Chris Wormley, they way they mentored him. They set a great example of what you have to do to be successful. Rashan is a tremendously talented young man, he's got great character and he just stepped forward from the day winter conditioning started to the first day of spring practice. He tries to lead by example and you'd never be able to tell that the young man is going to into his sophomore year, he's having a really good spring."
Outside of U-M's expected front four on the line, the Wolverines are thin with experience. There is talent there, just none that have as much experience as those on top of the projected depth chart have. With Gary, Mattison says that the younger lineman on roster can look to the talented sophomore and use him as a reference point. With his senior mentality and demeanor, not only is Gary teaching himself the ropes, he's also teaching those around him, too.
"A lot of times when you're a sophomore coming off a good season a freshman, you're kind of like 'okay, okay I got it,'" Mattison said. "He's very critical of himself, he listens to every coaching point. When that happens you have a special young man. He leads the young guys by that, they see him doing some really, really athletic things on the field. They watch him do it and it's like somebody saying showing you how to do it. He's a very good example for everybody."