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The Hype Builds: Coming out of Paramus Catholic High School, the same high school Jabrill Peppers attended, Gary was the top-ranked recruit in the country, as he headed to Ann Arbor in 2016. Given his freak athletic ability for his size, and his No. 1 ranking, the Wolverines expected Gary to create havoc for opposing offenses early and often throughout his collegiate career.

When Gary committed to play for Michigan over Clemson, many fans thought Gary would dominate a game from his defensive end spot like the No. 1 overall prospect from the 2011 recruiting class, Jadeveon Clowney did at South Carolina, where he had 13.0 sacks his sophomore year alone. 

Gary, like other notable No. 1 overall recruits, Vince Young and Adrian Peterson, was expected to be the best player on one of the best teams in the country.

At Michigan: In three seasons at Michigan, Gary played 34 games with 21 starts and accounted for 136.0 tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss, 10.0 sacks and one forced fumble. Gary’s best season came his sophomore year when he had 65 tackles, 5.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss. 

Still, Gary never finished a season with more tackles, sacks or tackles for loss than fellow defensive end Chase Winovich, who had 79.0 tackles, 18.0 tackles for loss and 8.0 sacks in 2017 alone.

Despite never being the most effective pass rusher on the team, Gary was named a second team All-Big Ten selection by the Associated Press in 2017 and 2018.

Was The Hype Real: Out of the 11 defensive linemen selected in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Gary had more collegiate sacks than only one of them (Jeffery Simmons from Mississippi State, who was taken with the 19th pick) and more tackles for loss than only two of them (Dexter Lawrence from Clemson, who was taken with the 17th pick and LJ Collier from TCU, who was taken with the 29th pick).

Gary is an athletic freak, running a 4.58 40-yard dash, with a 120-inch broad jump, and a 38-inch vertical leap at 6-4 and 277 pounds at the 2019 NFL Combine, which is why he was drafted so high despite the lack of production expected at the collegiate level.

There is the excuse Gary didn’t have the production Winovich had at Michigan because Gary was always being double teamed, which is largely false.

Was the production expected from Gary coming into Ann Arbor unfair? Probably. Would Gary have been more productive on the stat sheet had Don Brown given him the freedom to roam the field more instead of forcing him to hold the edge as a run defender? Absolutely.

After injuring his shoulder in September of the 2018 season, Gary could have done exactly what Ohio State’s Nick Bosa did after his injury a few weeks earlier, when he decided to withdraw from school to focus on the NFL Draft. However, after sitting out three games due to the injury, Gary decided to risk his NFL future and suit up for the Maize and Blue for their final four regular-season games, trying to help the Wolverines make the College Football Playoff.

It is well documented that inside the Michigan locker room Gary was respected for his work ethic and for always being a team-first guy. So, even though Gary’s production in the winged helmet wasn’t outstanding for a No. 1 overall prospect, his value to the Wolverines’ football program can’t be measured on the stat sheet alone. 

This article is one in a series looking at Wolverines that created tremendous hype either on the recruiting trail or early in their careers, looking back on whether they fulfilled such lofty expectations.

Sam McGuffie

Tate Forcier

Denard Robinson

Jabrill Peppers

Drake Harris 

Shane Morris - coming soon