What Don Brown Liked Most About Rashan Gary's Return

"When your so-called stars act that way, it's certainly a good model for everyone else on the defense."

Jamie and Stoney
November 07, 2018 - 9:41 am

© Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Categories: 

As if he needed any more weapons, Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown got back arguably his best player last Saturday when Rashan Gary returned from a three-game absence due to an injured shoulder. 

Gary was relatively quiet in the Wolverines' demolition of Penn State, notching two tackles and one quarterback hurry. Brown acknowledged he's still shaking off some rust. 

That said, Gary's enthusiasm was second to none. 

"Nice to get him back, great young man. Has a tremendous future in front of him. I thought he played. The thing I liked about him the most Saturday night, besides his ability on the field, is he was really happy for his teammates when good things would happen," Brown told the Jamie and Stoney Show on 97.1 The Ticket. 

There was a point during Gary's absence when fans began wondering if he would return at all. Some assumed he was taking the route of Ohio State's Joey Bosa by cutting short his season -- and his college career -- to gear up for the NFL Draft. 

But Gary, a first-team All-Big Ten selection last season, told reporters on Tuesday that was never a consideration. 

“Absolutely not," Gary said. "Absolutely not. We’re in a position (where) we control what we want to control. Those are my brothers. We came here together, we started something and I need to finish it. I feel like that’s how everyone feels.”

Michigan came in at No. 4 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings Tuesday night. A Big Ten championship and a national championship are both within reach. With three regular season games remaining, including a trip to Columbus, Gary's return comes at a good time. 

He said he couldn't explain how good it felt to get back on the field last weekend. 

“I feel like for anybody who was hurt they understand what I say. Stepping back on that field in the stadium, after missing those games, I got them chills back. I looked to my right, I see Devin Bush, I look to my left, I see Josh Metellus. I’m seeing Chase (Winovich), Carlo (Kemp), ‘Yeah, I miss y’all, I love y’all.’ Felt good putting the pads on somebody else and getting my feet wet.”

Brown said the silver lining of Gary's injury is that it allowed for the likes of Josh Uche and Kwity Paye to emerge on the defensive line. 

"We’ve been able to carve a role for Josh Uche with his absence and, boy, he’s played really well," said Brown. "When you take production in terms of time on task, the snaps he has in a particular week and then what he accomplishes in the game, it’s special. But having Rashan miss all that time, now you keep your fingers crossed because you think you know what you’re gonna get.

"But Kwity Paye, the arrow is up now and he’s playing at a very high level. So you have another guy that you can put in there that has tremendous versatility. He can basically play three of the four defensive line positions and be an integral pass rusher in some of our specialized packages as well." 

During Gary's absence, Uche and Paye combined for 18.5 tackles, including 7.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. 

Other highlights from Brown's interview on 97.1 The Ticket:

On the defense playing with a chip on its shoulder after last year: "That’s a good feeling. Each week when you're approaching a new opportunity, you have to find something to motivate you throughout the practice week that gives you a little bit of an ege on Saturday afternoon. Lo and behold, we’ve been able to do that, for sure. Obviously (Penn State last year) left a bad taste in our mouth. We did not play very well, I did not coach very well. And that’s a hard thing to admit, personally. I came away from that game and I wanted to punch myself in the nose about 10 times, but I'm kind of glad that's behind me at this point in time and we’re moving on and getting ready for Rutgers." 

On his level of concern the team might look past 1-8 Rutgers: "You’re concerned, you’re always concerned. But at the end of the day, we’ve gotta play and you gotta go on the road in the Big 10 and win a football game. Not an easy chore. Northwestern, that’ll wake you up in a hurry, now. It’s funny, I was watching the Rutgers tape this week and one of their games I was watching was the Northwestern game and I remember freezing the scoreboard with three minutes left and it was 18-15. If that doesn’t wake you up enough, we know how tough a time we had with Northwestern, so you better be ready to go."

On Rutgers playing with a chip on their shoulder themselves after losing to Michigan 78-0 in 2016: "I'm sure they’ll be ready for us. They’re playing a young quarterback, (Artur Sitkowski). (Raheem) Blackshearhe, the running back, they’re utilizing him some in the running back position but also as a receiver and they're running screens to him and so forth, so they’ve really gotten this guy involved in their offense. We’ll be in what I call, stare-technique mode. Whoever’s got him, put your eyes on him and stare at him because he’s gonna drift on you. They certainly have our attention."