DUNWOODY, Ga. — Defensive tackle Rashan Gary, the nation’s No. 1-ranked high school prospect, is down to the final weekend of a four-year recruiting process.
And it seems likely to be a whirlwind.
Though Gary is headed to Clemson for his final official visit this weekend, he said both Alabama coach Nick Saban and Auburn coach Gus Malzahn were lobbying for him to swing through their campuses one more time before before heading back to New Jersey to make his decision.
“It’s getting kind of crazy, but I’m enjoying it,” Gary said Thursday night before receiving the Bobby Dodd National High School Lineman of the Year award from the Touchdown Club of Atlanta.
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Michigan has been considered the favorite for the 6-foot-5, 293-pound lineman, largely because Chris Partridge, his former high school coach at Paramus (N.J.) Catholic, joined the Michigan staff last year and was recently promoted to linebackers/special teams coach.
Gary took a fourth trip to Michigan last weekend and and ended up staying two extra days due to the snowstorm that enveloped the East Coast and caused his flight home to be cancelled, giving him even more time around the Wolverines’ players and coaches.
“I had a good feel for Michigan, coming back down I had to get a feel for the classroom and sit down with some of the teachers and see how they run class and see if I could fit within the classroom,” he said. “I could see myself being a student there as more than a football player.”
Michigan, however, isn’t taking any chances. Amidst Gary’s trip to the South, Partridge was scheduled to fly down to Atlanta to meet with him on Thursday night, his mother Jennifer Coney said. Auburn and Ole Miss also sent coaches to meet with Gary at the hotel where the awards presentation took place.
Coney said plans have been set for Gary to announce his college choice on Wednesday from ESPN’s studios in Bristol, Conn. ESPN has said the announcement will be at 1 p.m. ET. He will subsequently appear on several ESPN radio and television shows.
“They have the whole ‘carwash’ thing set up for him,” Coney said. “That was pretty exciting. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity so we’ll make the most of it.”
If things go according to plan, however, Gary will have his mind made up at least two days before heading to ESPN. He said once he returns to New Jersey on Sunday, he will sit down with his mother, stepfather, cousin and aunt among others — “Might be 100 of us sitting at the table,” he said — to discuss the pros and cons of each school, which have been meticulously detailed in a notebook he and his mother carried on every visit.
“It’s going to be our own war room,” she said.
Gary is expected to choose between Michigan, Auburn, Ole Miss, Southern Cal and Clemson, which he picked over Alabama for his final official visit.
“I only went to Clemson once and got a good feel,” he said. “I’m going back to make sure that feeling didn’t change. Plus my uncle lives 15 minutes away.”
But Saban — college football’s ultimately closer — hasn’t given up and was on the phone with Gary earlier Thursday, lobbying for one more chance. It’s unclear whether Gary will swing through Alabama or head straight home from Clemson after that visit wraps up.
“He just told me that ‘Bama really wants me and give them another try before I leave,” Gary said.