Rashan Gary is the kind of player who allows defensive coordinators to use their imaginations during game-plan development.
A big-time athlete with a blue-collar work ethic, the 6'4", 311-pound New Jersey phenom is America's top-rated recruit in 247Sports' 2016 composite rankings. He holds more than 50 scholarship offers with another season remaining in his high school career at Paramus Catholic in New Jersey.
Gary is used to the spotlight. It's shined on him most of this decade.
"It's been a journey since I got that first offer in eighth grade," he told Bleacher Report. "I didn't think much of it until I got to high school and realized there were seniors who worked really hard and still didn't have any offers. Seeing players struggle to get colleges interested at camps kind of puts things in perspective and keeps me humble. A lot of people want to be in my shoes."
The kid who caught early attention from recruiting analysts and collegiate coaching staffs has developed into the country's most coveted recruit. Years of interest are approaching an epic final stretch likely to last until national signing day in February.
Gary told B/R this summer that he intends to announce a top-five list and establish official visit plans before the season begins. Paramus Catholic, a state title contender, kicks of its campaign Sept. 4 against Eastern Christian Academy (Maryland).
His trips this summer included stops at Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Michigan and LSU.
"My mom and I are taking this step by step," Gary said. "I'm not feeling a lot of pressure, but I'm focused on finding the best place for me."
His mother, Jennifer Coney, has been an instrumental part of the recruiting process. It's hard to imagine him selecting a university without her seal of approval.
"Wherever he's competing, she's right there alongside him. You can see he's the love of her life," said NJ Advance Media recruiting analyst Todderick Hunt, who has covered Gary as long as anyone.
While some parents may worry solely about campus location or academic offerings, Coney is also considering defensive schemes, which she made clear to Chris Kirschner of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last month after attending Dawg Night at Georgia:
I know [Georgia runs] a 3-4 defense, and I don’t know how good that would be for my son. In that three-person line, their job is to hold the offensive line so the linebackers can come in to make the tackle. Well, how is Rashan supposed to shine in a 3-4? A 4-3 defense is what I prefer. It’s OK for him to play in a 3-4, only if they rotate in a 4-3. I just don’t see how playing in a 3-4 defense would benefit him.
Coney's comments send a strong message about her role in his recruitment and raise an overriding question that continues to accompany Gary.
Where exactly would he be most effective within a defensive system?
"Rashan is versatile enough to do pretty much anything he wants along the defensive line, whether you're talking about a 3-4 scheme or a 4-3 scheme," Hunt said. "He can play 3-technique or 5-technique, like the kind of big defensive ends Florida State likes."
Let's start with the obvious: Gary is college-ready from a physical standpoint.
He's managed to grow well beyond 300 pounds without sacrificing an ounce of athleticism. After packing on approximately 25 pounds during the past two years, Gary still explodes off the snap quicker than any 2016 lineman.
His 40-yard dash hovers around 4.7 seconds, exhibiting burst that could lend itself to multiple phases of a defensive game plan. Perhaps Gary is even equipped to regularly attack opponents from a stand-up setting.
"He could probably play outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme because of his speed and mobility," Hunt said.
Gary is listed as a defensive tackle in recruiting rankings, though a more appropriate term might simply be "defensive front specialist." His stature, anticipation and aggression make it practically impossible to pigeonhole him into one specific slot.
He saw plenty of snaps off the edge last fall, when Gary erupted for 55 tackles and 14 sacks. His ability to transition on a play-by-play basis helps dictate battles within the trenches.
"If you're doing your job as a coach, you probably don't have him lined up in the same spot on every single down," Hunt said. "You want to move Rashan around and have the offense account for him on each snap."
Gary also recognizes his versatility, expressing an openness to adapt as a college athlete.
“I love a defense that plays both schemes,” he told Kipp Adams of 247Sports.
Michigan, viewed as a slight favorite to sign Gary, benefits from an element of familiarity. Former Paramus Catholic head coach Chris Partridge serves on Jim Harbaugh's staff and recently hosted the prized prospect in Ann Arbor.
“They treat us like family. Coach Partridge knows how my mom is and knows how I am, so our visit was smooth," Gary said. "He showed us everything we needed to see.”
Wolverines defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin loves to dial up blitzes off the perimeter, utilizing 3-4, 3-3-5 and 4-3 schemes during previous tenures. He formerly worked at Florida under Will Muschamp, who is now ardently pursuing Gary at Auburn.
Ultimately, any defensive coach in America should be willing to adapt his philosophical approach if it means finding a fit for Gary.
While most would love the thought of him setting the edge in a three-man front, Gary's greatest ceiling resides at 3-technique in a 4-3 scheme. It's the position that can best showcase his tremendous blend of attributes.
Shaded to the offensive guard's outside shoulder, Gary would be asked to eviscerate the B-gap and get into the backfield. Given his elite footwork and rare quick-trigger athleticism at that size, he is essentially tailor-made for the position.
A spot along the defensive front can also create consistent pass-rush capabilities, as evidenced by the dominant NFL careers of Warren Sapp, Ndamukong Suh and John Randle. B/R enjoyed a firsthand account of how relentless Gary can be in his hunt for quarterbacks last October, as he collected six sacks in three quarters of live-game coverage.
Regardless of which scheme Gary lands in, expect him to wreak havoc against offensive linemen for years to come.
"I got some reps against Rashan, and they were humbling experiences for sure," 5-star center Jack Anderson said in July after a few showdowns. "He's the real deal."
Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake.
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It's no secret that interested college coaches have the same conversations about Devin White.
Is he a linebacker at the next level, or a running back? Perhaps an H-back? Maybe a hybrid defensive end?
When discussing White, the answer is simple.
Yes. Yes to all. And then some.
"Effectively, I can play linebacker, wide receiver, running back, anything on special teams, wherever," said White, a 4-star athlete from North Webster High School in Springhill, Louisiana. "I'm going to work hard at everything just for the team. I'd play tight end just to give the team an extra boost, because I like to win."
In the world of recruiting, White is a Swiss Army knife of sorts, a jack-of-all-trades athlete who is expected to see early playing time because of the multiple ways he can be used on the field—on both sides of the ball. Few athletes at any level of competition have the combination of power, speed, athleticism, elusiveness and versatility White possesses.
In fact, members of the media began calling White "Weapon X" while at The Opening in Oregon last month. The moniker fits.
For starters, he's 6'1" and 255 pounds, but he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.49 seconds at The Opening. He also was one of the strongest participants at the event, throwing the power ball 44 feet. Only three players threw the it further.
And then there's White's athleticism: He showed his leaping ability with a 37.9-inch vertical in Oregon.
In short, he's an enigma.
"I think he's one of the more unique athletes that we've seen over the first five years of The Opening," said Brian Stumpf, vice president of football events for Student Sports, which puts on The Opening and the Elite 11. "You don't often find that combination of build and athletic ability, and it will be fascinating to see what position he ends up matriculating to at the next level as he continues to physically mature."
Versatile from the start
White originally thought he'd be the next great wide receiver. As a youngster playing Pop Warner ball, he was a go-to option as an outside receiver.
"I was a real skinny cat and kind of tall," White said. "That's where the catching came in. I've always been able to catch by playing wide receiver. I used to run a lot of routes. That's how it started."
As White got older, he got bigger. And stronger. By the time he started high school, he was a burly athlete who coaches felt fit best as a linebacker. His opportunity to play running back came when one of his teammates was injured.
"I was the man to step up," he said, "and I loved it back there."
As a junior, White rushed for 2,287 yards and 30 touchdowns. He had 1,094 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns as a sophomore.
"I'm coming downhill with power," said White, who averaged better than eight yards per carry last season. "If you don't want to tackle me, I'll find you. But it isn't just about running people over. I've got good footwork in the hole. I can make people miss, run a toss sweep outside and catch passes.
"The defense better blitz every gap, because they have 255 pounds coming at them full speed."
White is scary at running back, but then there's his work at linebacker. He finished his junior year with 93 tackles. He had 99 tackles as a sophomore.
White is a top-80 player who some feel would have a more promising college career on the defensive side of the ball. But ask White, and it's no secret that he loves having the football in his hand.
"I'm comfortable at linebacker, and I actually think that position is really easy for me," he said, "but I prayed about it, and I don't want to play it (in college). I'm focused on teams recruiting me to play running back."
Stumpf added, "I think staying at his weight currently, he's an ideal 3-4 inside linebacker who can take on blockers and also run sideline to sideline. But we also know that running back is in his heart."
Finding a winning program
On July 10, White released a top 10 of LSU, Ole Miss, Florida State, Alabama, Auburn, Miami, Texas A&M, Georgia, Arkansas and UCLA. He doesn't have a true timetable on when he'll announce his verbal commitment, but national signing day could be the big day.
One player who would love to call him a teammate is Ole Miss pledge Shea Patterson. The 5-star quarterback considers White one of his best friends and has been a fan of his playing style for a few years.
"For me, it's a little different from everyone else. He's like my brother," Patterson said. "I think Devin is one of those guys who is one of a kind. He's a freak of an athlete. He kind of reminds me a lot of Bo Jackson, because he can do a lot of stuff.
"I mean, he's 6'1", 250 pounds and running a 4.4. That's not supposed to happen. He's been someone I've thought about since I committed."
In June, White posted a cryptic tweet suggesting he knows where he wants to play college ball. While he refuses to tip his hat, his 247Sports Crystal Ball points heavily to his staying in-state, playing for LSU. Ole Miss, Alabama, Arkansas and Georgia are schools to keep an eye on as well.
White considers himself a "people person and a family person," and the winning school will have a friendly campus environment, in addition to an outstanding football program.
"If you treat me like family, and I know you're there for me, that's what I'm looking for," he said. "Getting on the field, I'm a team player, so I'm going to do what I have to do to be a great player for the university.
"I want to believe in the coach in helping me get to the NFL, which is a final goal for me. Another thing: I just want to feel comfortable. At the end of the day, I want my parents at my games and for me and them to be comfortable with the university."
Patterson, who said he talks to White every day, believes his playmaking ability fits best at Ole Miss. His selling pitch is clear: He wants White to help bring a national championship to Oxford, Mississippi.
"I tell him that this class is good enough to where we can take the program over the hump," Patterson said. "I think it's something we can do. It's been done at other places like Alabama, LSU, and Auburn. We can do it and be legends."
Wherever he ends up, White wants to be a game-changer at the college level. After all, "GAME CHANGER" is his user name on Twitter.
And he can be that kind of player. At a few different positions.
"I can play linebacker or running back. On the offensive side, I can catch the ball, run the ball or block real well," White said. "I just want to be versatile on all sides of the ball. I thank God for blessing me.
"It's just God-given ability right now, but when I get to work with a college coach and perfect my craft, it will be something dangerous."
Staff Writer Tyler Donohue contributed to this report.
Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles
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