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Which programs are contenders, pretenders for RB Tahj Gary?

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Nick Lucero/Rivals.com

On Tuesday, Tahj Gary released his final eight schools as he moves closer to a decision. The running back out of College Park (Ga.) Woodward Academy wants to commit in September, so the next three months will be very important.

As we enter the summer, we take a look at the schools in contention and whether they should be labeled as a contender or a pretender for Gary’s commitment.

MORE: Gary trims list | Running back rankings | Rivals Camp Series coverage

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ARKANSAS

The offer came during the spring evaluation period and that alone caught Gary’s attention. He has been talking to a couple of coaches on the Arkansas staff, he knows about some of the running backs that have come through Fayetteville and it is a school that he wants to visit. This is a new school in this race.

The verdict: Pretender

BOSTON COLLEGE

When talking to Gary about the Eagles, it is not one coach that he mentioned, but the staff as a whole that he likes. Still, it is farther away and the interest does not seem to be as high here as it does in other ACC schools. He does, however, like how Boston College runs the ball.

The verdict: Pretender

GEORGIA TECH

The campus is a short drive from the Gary home, he likes the city of Atlanta and the coaches have recruited him as hard as anyone. The one concern I hear the most with the Yellow Jackets is, how does Gary feel he fits into their offensive scheme? He could watch a game early in the season to get one more look.

The verdict: Pretender

KENTUCKY

This one could come down to a visit. The Wildcats were one of the first schools to offer Gary and the coaching staff has been consistent with its interest. UK made him feel like a priority, but he just doesn’t know as much about this school now as he does others.

The verdict: Pretender

NORTH CAROLINA

Gary has visited Chapel Hill and he is set to return June 16. The coaching staff as a whole has bonded with Gary and the attention it showed him has put the Tar Heels in a good spot. The overall program, the coaches and the academics that UNC offers make the Tar Heels a true player.

The verdict: Contender

PURDUE

What put Purdue in his final eight was the connection with running backs coach Chris Barclay. He and Gary connected quickly and the Boilermakers are in the hunt, but there is still a lot Gary wants to learn about the program.

The verdict: Pretender

SOUTH CAROLINA

South Carolina was the second SEC school to offer Gary and he knows a lot about the Gamecocks. He is familiar with the school, he has visited Columbia numerous times and he and Bobby Bentley stay in regular contact. Terry Googer played at South Carolina and he came through Gary’s high school a few years ago, so there is that connection, too.

The verdict: Contender

VIRGINIA TECH

What has the Hokies on this list is Gary’s connection with running backs coach Zohn Burden. Those two have a lot in common, they have had some deep conversations and the interest is real here. A big visit is on the horizon.

The verdict: Contender

THE WRAP

If tomorrow was National Signing Day, Gary would likely choose between the Tar Heels and Gamecocks. He is comfortable with each staff and he has been on campus numerous times. What is good for the other schools on his list of favorites is — tomorrow is not National Signing Day. Gary is going to take more visits, see new campuses and give other schools a chance. He has a lot of relationships with coaches, so it will come down to getting him on campus and building off those relationships if other schools want to become contenders.